Greetings to all who will be attending Faith Day on October 31st! (Calgary Catholic Schools)
I was born in Calgary in 1960 and therefore I have a natural affection for your city. But also, when I was a young boy, my mother was terribly ill with crippling depression and anxiety disorder. She spent many months in a hospital in Calgary, and nothing seemed to help until she received a visit from a kind Catholic priest whose gentle faith helped her cope and restore.
The twist to this story is that we were a Baptist family. In fact, my father was a Baptist minister who started Fairview Baptist Church in Calgary in the late 50’s. It is quite astonishing that this beautiful encounter between Fr. Don O’Dwyer and my mom happened at all, given the still very clear dividing lines between Catholics and Protestants back in those days. However, it was that man’s bold kindness that not only helped my mother, but also began an opening in our family to a rich faith tradition we were otherwise closed to. And now, here I am coming to sing to you almost 50 years later.
Kindness, it turns out, is the theme of this year’s Faith Day. In preparation, I wanted to share a song with you all (see below). The lyrics are adapted from a stunning prayer by St. Teresa of Avila (1515-1582), whose life and writings have had a deep effect on my own faith and prayer.
What is worth noting, is that the root of the word “kindness” is “kin.” Kin-dness is not a flat or sentimental “niceness,” but rather, it flows from a deeply internalized sense of kinship which, I believe, lies at the heart of love. This is worth pondering, especially in an educational environment that, in response to the problem of bullying, has largely opted for the low bar of tolerance. My goodness! What a sad reduction of the highest human achievment: Love. In a recent conversation with author/speaker Tim Huff, he asked if I could imagine Jesus saying, “a new commandment I give unto you: that you tolerate one another as I have tolerated you.” No! Never!
Kin-dness is not a flat or sentimental niceness, but rather, it flows from a deeply internalized sense of kinship.
This kin-ship however, runs far deeper than between human persons alone.
Canadians in particular, have deep resonances with kin-dness; it is embedded in our history with First Nations people whose Indigenous intuition spoke of a whole created order with deeply familial connections. Indigenous tradition honours, among others, “Grandfather Sun” and “Grandmother Moon,” whose luminous oversite guards and guides our way. And whenever harvesting a plant or animal, reverential thanks is given (traditionally) to our “brothers and sisters“ who give us life at the cost of their own.
(Above image copied from NOKOMIS)
This, of course, resonates with our Christian faith as well—in Saints like Francis, whose prayer/poems celebrated “Brother Sun and Sister Moon,” and whose Canticle of the Sun (in concert with the relational wisdom of Indigenous peoples world-over) may well be the good medicine our society needs right now to turn our hearts toward the kind of gratitude, humility and restraint that will allow our planet to restore and renew from overuse before irreparable damage takes place.
And then of course, there is Jesus himself, who, by calling God Father, taught us that kin-dness resides at the deepest level of God’s very constitution. Self-donating, mutual kin-dness, it could be said, is the fundamental DNA of God and all that flows from God.
It’s a good word. It’s a good focus for a Faith Day, or any day.
Again, I’m looking forward to it 🙂
Steve Bell / Oct. 15
BTW – I’m writing this on the Feast of St. Teresa of Avila, whose prayer inspired this song:
KINDNESS song written by Brian McLaren
Christ has no body here but ours
No hands no feet here, on earth but ours
Ours the eyes through which he looks
On this world with kindness
Ours are the hands through which he works
Ours are the feet on which he moves
Ours the voices through which he speaks
To this world with kindness
Through our touch, our smile, our listening ear
Embodied in us, Jesus is living here
Let us go now—enspirited
Into this world with kindness.
KINDNESS appears on Steve Bell’s album of the same name. More about the album HERE….