On Contemplative Presence: A Wendell Berry Poem

by Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde, Visitation CompanionMass at Monastery

Contemplative Presence is a vivacious stability founded in the “movement without motion,” named in the Book of Wisdom and described by St. Francis de Sales as devotion. This presence carries our charism, and therefore, conversion which we know as humility, seeking truth, before God and great gentleness, non-violence, in relation to all of creation. Communing rather than significant separation is our wellspring overflowing as “the bond of love,” the signature of our charism.”
— From the Seven Essentials of the Visitation Monastic Presence in North Minneapolis

What does it mean to be a contemplative? What informs or characterizes your efforts to “be present” — or to “live in the moment?” In my reflections on – and best attempts to follow– a life grounded in contemplative presence, I have jokingly said, “It takes a lot of planning to live in the present moment!”

As Sr. Mary Margaret McKenzie and I prepare to present on this topic at tonight’s Salesian Monday session, I offer you the following Wendell Barry poem to inspire your own reflections, prayers and life rooted in Contemplative Presence.

Wendell Berry booksRemembering that it happened once,
We cannot turn away the thought,
As we go out, cold, to our barns
Toward the long night’s end, that we
Ourselves are living in the world
It happened in when it first happened,
That we ourselves, opening a stall
(A latch thrown open countless times
Before), might find them breathing there,
Foreknown: the Child bedded in straw,
The mother kneeling over Him,
The husband standing in belief
He scarcely can believe, in light
That lights them from no source we see,
An April morning’s light, the air
Around them joyful as a choir.
We stand with one hand on the door,
Looking into another world
That is this world, the pale daylight
Coming just as before, our chores
To do, the cattle all awake,
Our own white frozen breath hanging
In front of us; and we are here
As we have never been before,
Sighted as not before, our place
Holy, although we knew it not.

Wendell Berry, A Timbered Choir

One Response

Write a Comment»
  1. It does seem that it takes a lot of planning to live in the present moment. Those times when I am most succcessful at living in the present moment are when I am with small children. They are excellent examples of living in the present moment.

    When I am not with small children, I have to ‘work’ at it. My examples, of course, are the Visistation Sisters. As for what informs my efforts, I go back to the stories of Jesus and how he was almost always focused on the task at hand.

    Real ‘work’ comes in turning off the cell phone and other electronics that keep me distracted and multitasking and focusing on what is in front of me.

    Some days it is more effortless and less ‘work’/planned than others. Often it is still to easy to get caught up in the hurry, hurry, hurry. It takes practice for me.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *