An Alphabet of Inspiration for the Spiritual JourneyThe following quotes are listed according to the author’s last name. I hope you find something to inspire you as you read through the words of these mystics, poets & theologians. With respect to language of gender, I have chosen to honor the context in which these authors lived, thus the language has not been changed. Please check back frequently as there is always something new to find here. Peace & joy for the journey!
St. Augustine of Hippo
I Came to Love You Too Late
I came to love you too late, O Beauty, so ancient and so new. Yes, I came to love you too late. What did I know? You were inside me, and I was out of my body and mind looking for you. I drove like an ugly madman against the beautiful things and beings you made. You were inside me, but I was not inside you…You called to me, you cried to me; you broke the bowl of my deafness; you uncovered my beams and threw them at me; you rejected my blindness; you blew a fragrant wind on me, and I sucked in my breath, and wanted you; I tasted you and now I want you as I want food and water; you touched me, and I have been burning ever since to have your peace.
You are Amazing
Consider the fact that for 3.8 billion years, a period of time older than the Earth’s mountains and rivers and oceans, every one of your forebears on both sides has been attractive enough to find a mate, healthy enough to reproduce, and sufficiently blessed by fate and circumstances to live long enough to do so. Not one of your pertinent ancestors was squashed, devoured, drowned, starved, stuck fast, untimely wounded or otherwise deflected from its life’s quest of delivering a tiny charge of genetic material to the right partner at the right moment to perpetuate the only possible sequence of hereditary combinations that could result – eventually, astoundingly, and all too briefly – in you.
Frederick Buechner (b. 1926)
Listen to Your Life
If I were called upon to state in a few words the essence of everything I was trying to say both as a novelist and as a preacher, it would be something like this: Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery it is. In the boredom and pain of it no less than in the excitement and gladness: touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it because in the last analysis all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace. Now and Then
Jean Pierre de Caussade (b. 1675)
The Divine Will
The divine will is a deep abyss of which the present moment is the entrance. If yo plunge into this abyss, you will find it infinitely more vast than your desires.
won’t you celebrate with me
We are a Mystery
Man is a mystery. It needs to be unravelled, and if you spend your whole life unravelling it, don’t say that you’ve wasted time. I am studying that mystery because I want to be a human being.
Don’t Lie to Yourself
Above all, don’t lie to yourself. The man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to a point that he cannot distinguish the truth within him, or around him, and so loses all respect for himself and for others. And having no respect he ceases to love. The Brothers Karamazov
Thank You is Enough
If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough.
Learn to Know Yourself
A human being has so many skins inside, covering the depths of the heart. We know so many things, but we don’t know ourselves! Why, thirty or forty skins or hides, as thick and hard as an ox’s or bear’s, cover the soul. Go into your own ground and learn to know yourself there.
St. Francis of Assisi
When You Leave This Earth
Remember that when you leave this earth you can taken nothing of what you have received, but only what you have a given: a full heart, enriched by honest service, love, sacrifice, and courage.
When weaving a blanket, an Indian woman leaves a flaw in the weaving of that blanket to let the soul out.
Our Deepest Concerns
We all need friends with whom we can speak of our deepest concerns, and who do not fear to speak the truth in love to us.
Hildegard of Bingen
There is no creation that does not have radiance. Be it greenness or seed, blossom or beauty. It could not be creation without it.
Who is the Trinity?
Who is the Trinity? You are music. You are life. You are alive in everything, and yet you are unknown to us…God says: I am the supreme fire; not deadly, but rather, enkindle every spark of life.
Gerard Manley Hopkins
All Things Are Charged with Love
All things therefore are charged with love, are charged with God and if we knew how to touch them give off sparks and take fire, yield drops and flow, ring and tell of him.
St. Ignatius of Loyola
Action and Trust
Act as if everything depended on you; trust as if everything depended on God.
Julian of Norwich
Falling and Rising Again
If there is anywhere on earth a lover of God who is always kept safe, I know nothing of it, for it was not shown to me. But this was shown: that in falling and rising again we are always kept in that same precious love
Sue Monk Kidd
A Season of Waiting
I stood at the window watching the cocoon, which hung in the winter air like an upside–down question mark. That was the moment… I understood. Really understood. Crisis, change, all the myriad upheavals that blister the spirit and leave us groping– they aren’t voices simply of pain but also of creativity. And if we would only listen, we might hear such times beckoning us to a season of waiting, to the place of fertile emptiness. When the Heart Waits
Suffering and Crisis
I don’t hold to the idea that God causes suffering and crisis. I just know that those things come along and God uses them. We think life should be a nice, clean ascending line. But inevitably something wanders onto the scene and creates havoc with the nice way we’ve arranged life to fall in place. When the Heart Waits
The Clamor of a New Self Struggling to be Born
Back in the autumn I had awakened to a growing darkness and cacophony, as if something in the depths were crying out. A whole chorus of voices. Orphaned voices. They seemed to speak for all the unlived parts of me, and they came with a force and dazzle that I couldn’t contain. They seemed to explode the boundaries of my existence. I know now that they were the clamor of a new self struggling to be born. When the Heart Waits
After Making Love We Hear Footsteps
For I can snore like a bullhorn
or play loud music
or sit up talking with any reasonably sober Irishman
and Fergus will only sink deeper
into his dreamless sleep, which goes by all in one flash,
but let there be that heavy breathing
or a stifled come-cry anywhere in the house
and he will wrench himself awake
and make for it on the run – as now, we lie together,
after making love, quiet, touching along the length of our bodies,
familiar touch of the long-married,
and he appears – in his baseball pajamas, it happens,
the neck opening so small
he has to screw them on, which one day may make him wonder
about the mental capacity of baseball players -
and flops down between us and hugs us and snuggles himself to sleep,
his face gleaming with satisfaction at being this very child.
In the half darkness we look at each other
and touch arms across his little, startling muscled body -
this one whom habit of memory propels to the ground of his making,
sleeper only the mortal sounds can sing awake,
this blessing love gives again into our arms.
St. Francis and the Sow
Faith is the art of holding on to things your reason has once accepted in spite of your changing moods.
Every day, every day I hear enough to fill a year of nights with wondering.
Life Itself is so Astounding
Deepen Your Own Self-Understanding
If you attempt to act and do for others or for the world without deepening your own self-understanding, freedom, integrity and capacity to love, you will not have anything to give others.
By reading the scriptures I am so renewed that all nature seems renewed around me and with me. The sky seems to be a pure, a cooler blue, the trees a deeper green. The whole world is charged with the glory of God and I feel fire and music under my feet.
Living Your Wounds
The great challenge is living your wounds through instead of thinking them through. It is better to cry than to worry, better to feel your wounds deeply than to understand them, better to let them enter into your silence than to talk about them. Understanding your wounds can only be healing when that understanding is put at the service of your heart.
God’s Love is Enough
You have to trust the place that is solid, the place where you can say yes to God’s love even when you do not feel it. Right now you feel nothing except emptiness and the lack of strength to choose. But keep saying, ‘God loves me, and God’s love is enough’. You have to choose the solid place over and over again and return to it after every failure.
In the spiritual life, the word ‘discipline’ means ‘the effort to create some space in which God can act’. Discipline means to prevent everything in your life from being filled up. Discipline means that somewhere you’re not occupied, and certainly not preoccupied… to create that space in which something can happen that you hadn’t planned or counted on.
No one else has access to the world you carry around within yourself; you are its custodian and entrance. No one else can see the world the way you see it. No one else can feel your life the way you feel it. Thus it is impossible to ever compare two people because each stands on such different ground. When you compare yourself to others, you are inviting envy into your consciousness; it can be a dangerous and destructive guest. Anam Cara
The Awakened Soul
Once the soul awakens, the search begins and you can never go back. From then on, you are inflamed with a special longing that will never again let you linger in the lowlands of complacency and partial fulfillment. The eternal makes you urgent. You are loath to let compromise or the threat of danger hold you back from striving toward the summit of fulfillment. Anam Cara
After Making Love in Winter
At first I cannot have even a sheet on me,
anything at all is painful, a plate of
iron laid down on my nerves, I lie there in the
air as if flying rapidly without moving, and
slowly I cool off.-hot,
warm, cool, cold, icy, till the
skin all over my body is ice
except at those points our bodies touch like
blooms of fire. Around the door
loose in its frame, and around the transom, the
light from the hall burns in straight lines and
casts up narrow beams on the ceiling, a
figure throwing up its arms for joy.
In the mirror, the angles of the room are calm, it is the
hour when you can see that the angle itself is blessed,
and the dark globes of the chandelier,
suspended in the mirror, are motionless-I can
feel my ovaries deep in my body, I
gaze at the silvery bulbs, maybe I am
looking at my ovaries, it is
clear everything I look at is real
and good. We have come to the end of questions,
you run your palm, warm, large,
dry, back along my face over and
over, over and over, like God
putting the finishing touches on, before
sending me down to be born.
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
call to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting –
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.
The World Calls
And that is just the point… how the world, moist and beautiful, calls to each of us to make a new and serious response. That’s the big question, the one the world throws at you every morning. “Here you are, alive. Would you like to make a comment?”
Christine Valters Paintner
Living on the edge means recognizing those places and experiences that do not offer me easy answers, those fierce edges of life where things are not as clear-cut as I hope for them to be. There is beauty in the border spaces, those places of ambiguity and mystery.
What Deep People Need
Deep people know they need:
solitude-if they are going to find out who they are;
silence-if their words are to mean anything;
contemplation-if they are to see the world as it really is;
prayer-if they are going to be conscious of God,
and if they are to ‘know God and enjoy him forever.’ Space for God
Rachel Naomi Remen
Serving People Perfectly
Wounding and healing are not opposites. They’re part of the same thing. It is our wounds that enable us to be compassionate with the wounds of others. It is our limitations that make us kind to the limitations of other people. It is our loneliness that helps us to to find other people or to even know they’re alone with an illness. I think I have served people perfectly with parts of myself I used to be ashamed of.
Choose Life Again
Every great loss demands that we choose life again. We need to grieve in order to do this. The pain we have not grieved over will always stand between us and life. When we don’t grieve, a part of us becomes caught in the past like Lot’s wife who, because she looked back, was turned into a pillar of salt.
Everybody is a Story
Everybody is a story. When I was a child, people sat around kitchen tables and told their stories. We don’t do that so much anymore. Sitting around the table telling stories is not just a way of passing time. It is the way the wisdom gets passed along. The stuff that helps us to live a life worth remembering.
Rainer Maria Rilke (1862-1937)
Live the Questions
Be patient toward all that is unresolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves…. Do not now seek answers which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now.
Archbishop Oscar Romero
Aspire to Be More
Aspire not to have more but to be more.Defence of human rights, equality and freedom is a matte of policy rooted in the gospel.Beautiful is the moment in which we understand that we are no more than an instrument of God; we live only as long as God wants us to live; we can only do as much as God makes us able to do; we are only as intelligent as God would have us be.If we are worth anything, it is not because we have more money or more talent or more human qualities. Insofar as we are worth anything, it is because we are grafted on to Christ’s life, his cross and resurrection. That is a person’s measure.We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of the magnificent enterprise that is God’s work. Nothing we do is complete, which is a way of saying that the kingdom always lies beyond us. No statement says all that could be said. No prayer fully expresses our faith. No confession brings perfection. No pastoral visit brings wholeness. No program accomplishes the church’s mission. No set of goals and obvjectives includes everything.This is what we are about. We plant the seeds that one day will grow. We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise. We lay foundations that will need further development. We provide yeast that produces far beyond our capabilities. we cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that. this enables us to do something, and to do it very well. It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an opportunity for the Lord’s grace to enter and do the rest. We may never see the end results, but that is the difference between the master builder and the worker. We are the workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs.
Cathy Smith Bowers
Learning How to Pray
When I heard my brother
was dying youngest
of the six of us our
lovely boy I who in matters
of the spirit
had been always suspect
who even as a child
began finally to
pray and fearing
I would offend
or miss completely
the rightful target of my pleas
went knocking everywhere
the Buddha’s huge
and starry churning Shiva
Vishnu Isis the worn
and ragged god of Ishmael
I bowed to the Druid reverence
of trees to water fire
and wind prayed to weather
to carbon that sole link
to all things
this and other worldly
our carbon who art in heaven
prayed to rake and plow
the sweet acid stench of dung
to fly to the fly’s soiled
wing and to the soil
I could not stop
myself I like a nymphomaniac
the dark promiscuity
of my spirit there
for the taking whore
of my breaking heart willing
to lie down with anything.
David Stendahl-Rast, OSB
People Who Have Faith
People who have faith in life are like swimmers who entrust themselves to a rushing river. They neither abandon themselves to its current nor try to resist it. Rather, they adjust their every movement to the watercourse, use it with purpose and skill, and enjoy the adventure.
Transforming the World
Monastic contemplatives have staked out a clearly limited area to be transformed by contemplation: the monastery. Lay contemplatives face the challenge of transforming the whole world.
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1862-1955)
You are a Spiritual Being
You are not a human being in search of a spiritual experience. You are a spiritual being immersed in a human experience.
For Those of Us Who Have a Large Vision
There is almost a sensual longing for communion with others who have a large vision. The immense fulfillment of the friendship between those engaged in furthering the evolution of consciousness has a quality impossible to describe.
The Sacrament of the Present Moment
Justice. To be ever ready to admit that another person is something quite different from what we read when he is there (or when we think about him). Or rather, to read in him that he is certainly something different, perhaps something completely different from what we read in him. Every being cries out silently to be read differently.
All the natural movements of the soul are controlled by laws analogous to those of physical gravity. Grace is the only exception. Grace fills empty spaces, but it can only enter where there is a void to receive it, and it is grace itself which makes this void. The imagination is continually at work filling up all the fissures through which grace might pass.
When I pray for another person, I am praying for God to open my eyes so that I can see that person as God does, and then enter into the stream of love that God already directs toward that person.
If prayer stands as the place where God and human beings meet, then I must learn about prayer. Most of my struggles in the Christian life circle around the same two themes: why God doesn’t act the way we want God to, and why I don’t act the way God wants me to. Prayer is the precise point where those themes converge.