Friday, October 31, 2008

City Directions

There is the Ignatian concept of "finding God in all things" or "contemplation in action" - that one's spiritual life and life are congruent. For me it's certainly an aspiration, and sometimes a reality.

Walking, either in my neighborhood or at Wernersville, I often enjoy the many and varied realizations of God at play in the universe: leaves rustle, squirrels duck and cover, the color of the sky. Walking the streets of Philadelphia makes this a bit more of a challenge.

Besides the proximity to a terrific chocolate store, one unexpected benefit of seeing my spiritual director in the city has been the chance to try to find God in the city scape.

Last week when I went, it was cold, rainy, sleeting. I walked the mile there and back from the train station - and was therefore glad of the chance to get warm in the church before my appointment. I wasn't the only one seeking a dry warm space, a man challenged me at the door (concerned, I suspect, that I was going to turn him out), "Are you going to tell me where to go?" On my return trip, as the rain intensified, I walked past a woman with all her worldly goods in bags, pressed up against a building in the narrow dry strip of pavement. At 13th and Market, I watched a toothless man walk bent into the beating rain with no coat, no umbrella, no shoes, just flip-flops and soaking socks.

Can I see God here?


  1. Sadly it is part of God's unfolding creation. Once drove Ridge Ave from West of Norristown to Philly. It amazed me how quickly the slums seemed to turn into the wealth of center city. Taking the train there is a section we always see with homes falling into pieces.

    It calls us to action.

  2. Was that not Jesus -- the belligerent man in church, expecting you to throw him out; the bag lady trying in vain to stay dry; the soaking wet man in flip flops?

    How are we called to answer That of God in others, who are suffering in ways none of us alone can alleviate? As Stratoz says, we are called to action -- but what action?

    I lived in a neighborhood in Philadelphia with grand homes on one block and empty crack houses on other -- a very mixed neighborhood in terms of wealth and infrastructure. I worked in a desolate neighborhood in another part of town. Both taught me more about our interconnectedness as human beings, and that helped me keep my perspective and my center -- my hope -- when doing social justice work. It's that interconnectedness, and our sense of it, that are so vital. Not just seeing, but recognizing, the Divine in others.

  3. stasa--- "but what action?"

    ten people may be moved by seeing poverty and all react in different ways. It is being moved to action that matters. It doesn't always happen with me, and I am reminded to what someone said to me tonight, "the opposite of love is indifference."