A Prayer Shawl: March 8-9, 2024

by Susan Kenney
Sacramento, California, USA

It is a prayer shawl, created in 23 hours.

Each hour new threads are added. Each of different color and texture. Each with its own culture and language.

We begin our weaving in the Philippines, holding the world’s  pain in reverent silence.  This silence is gentle. This silence is forgiving. We pray that we too might be gentle and forgiving in a world often harsh and accusatory.

Thanks to the wonder of technology, we share the next hour with the young contemplatives who remind us that it is the most unlikely people who are invited to a contemplative life. We then move to Hawaii where we are invited to seek our own inner peace and sense of the divine.

The weaving continues even while some of us are asleep or tending to other responsibilities. We rest, trusting that others are silently at work.

In Dublin we pray in silence and then with words and images. In Slovakia we experience the effortlessness that comes from detachment and a willingness to let God do the transformative work within each of us and within our world.

In Germany we hear prayers in German; in Quebec French is our language;  in Atlanta we reverence the First Nations people and their language. No matter. We all share the one language,  God’s language – silence.

While in Atlanta, we hear of the total gratuity of God and we are encouraged to make a new beginning every day, every moment. No need to reciprocate; gratitude is enough.

A member of the Contemplative Outreach group in Minnesota shares some of her illuminated calligraphy, part of a future book honoring and perpetuating the words and visions of Thomas Keating.

The threads continue to be woven as we share silence in Poland. We hear how the local group has grown through the dedication and faith of its early members.

We then listen to the stories of members of  the Outside the Walls group.   They share how the centering prayer practice provided them an anchor while in prison and again as they transitioned back into society. The threads they add to our prayer shawl are threads of both pain and courage.

The Sangha group offers an image of Mary Magdalene as she might have appeared in her older years. We are led through a meditation designed to touch the mood, emotions and message evoked by the image. Then we are invited to weep for our world, so wounded by war and exploitation.

In Ireland, we accept the healing offered by the divine and let go of attachments that might prevent that healing. While in France we are reassured that lectio does not expect any profound statements, rather we simply allow the words to speak for themselves.

While in Alberta, we acknowledge the varied landscapes of mountains, plains and watersheds, all signs of the interconnectedness of all creation.  In D.C. we engage in a sacred circle dance and we open ourselves to embrace all of life.

Finally, in Vancouver, we conclude with a song of lament and a song of rejoicing as we celebrate humanity in all of its dimensions.

Through the creation of this prayer shawl, we have experienced the healing power of contemplation, the source of compassion and reconciliation. The threads of this power run deep and wide. Each thread matters, even those we might have overlooked or discarded.  And we matter, each of us and all of us. Let this shawl embrace all of us and our hurting world with its wisdom and love as our journey continues.