Our Current Read: Joy Unspeakable, Chapter 3

This week’s gathering at Marie G’s house was small but stimulating. Thanks to all who could be there and to Marie for hosting so graciously. We have not gathered to discuss this book in a long time so it was wonderful simply sitting in our circle of friends once again. For those of you who missed, here are some highlights and some food for thought.

The vividness of Barbara Holmes’ descriptions of slave holds, plantation practices, and hush arbors in Chapter 3 evoked a deep sense of sadness in me, the same one I often feel when I read about the Jewish Holocaust or the many pogroms (some still occurring today). How does this happen? Why does racial hatred continue to spill over into our streets and our conversations? While Barbara does not directly attempt to answer these age-old questions, she does give an interesting explanation on how they coped. She calls it “crisis contemplation.” This is strangely comforting to me. Through what she calls “inversion,” the African captives’ unthinkable pain and suffering formed a bedrock foundation of inner, spiritual strength. Those who survived were able to turn inward somehow. The whip, the ring shout, the circle dance of the auction blocks, and the hush arbors of the plantations, called the diverse strangers into contemplation of their primal knowledge of divine presence that had begun in their families and villages. Unity beyond language barriers and customs evolved out of their shared experience of horror and pain.

Our discussion eventually ended with several questions. What can we do? How can we, a small group of affluent white women, change or transform the current climate of racism? It all seems so hopeless sometimes to “just pray” about the situation. I shared that my experience with contemplative prayer has helped in this regard. Tessa and the other Carmelite monks of the Spiritual Life Institute taught me long ago that a contemplative, recollected life truly becomes the the “Real Presence” of Christ in this world. It is the Beloved who emerges from me when I can remain centered, attentive, present to the beauty, truth, goodness of every ordinary moment. As Barbara Holmes says in this chapter, “It is only radical love that can transform this situation.” My intention is to always be in that flow, every day, every moment, for it is the Christ in us all who holds the world together. The empathy, tears, compassion, smiles, joy in the little things, all of the stuff of our lives, allows that love to flow endlessly into the world. Like the monks of old who dedicated their lives to praying for the world, I can use my life to the same purpose as an undercover agent for radical love. What do you think? Please leave a comment!

FYI: Our next meeting is scheduled for Monday, October 18 at 9:30 AM at the home of Marie Ryan.

PLEASE MARK YOUR CALENDARS: The annual women’s retreat is coming back NOVEMBER 6-7. We will have a different environment and schedule this year as we adapt during Covid. More details to follow.

2 thoughts on “Our Current Read: Joy Unspeakable, Chapter 3”

  1. Sorry to miss you all this past Monday! I’ve missed more than I’ve attended for Joy Unspeakable and that saddens me because one of my action items for the year was to pay more attention to the stories of racism around me. Hopefully I will see you all at Marie R’s place next time.
    I admit I can get overwhelmed by the number of issues that grab at my heart and seem to demand action to show I care! I’m encouraged by your direction to let the Beloved actively flow out through me rather than just passively fret on what I can and cannot possibly do.
    Thanks for keeping the book going!


  2. Hi Donna,
    Thanks for the re-cap of the meeting sorry I had to miss it.
    I find your words of enc0uragement , in regards to prayer very helpful.
    Being a DOER, I need these reminders.
    So Happy you are relaxing into your retirement.
    With Love,


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