Holy Ground

Holy Ground

by Fred Schaeffer, OFS


I love reading various spiritual books by the Dutch author, Fr. Henri J.M. Nouwen (1932-1996) because he writes in a very methodical yet very clear and spiritual manner.


In "Reaching Out" - subtitled: "The Three Movements of the Spiritual Life," (1986, Image, Doubleday) Fr. Nouwen writes about Holy Ground as in being the "space" between God and us, more specifically, between one friend and the other. He talks about a friend he recalls from many years back, someone who Fr. N., had met as a student sitting in one of the classes he taught. They met, they talked a little, and then there was only silence, presumably because neither one knew of anything else to contribute to the conversation. But it was not an embarrassing silence but rather a warm, gentle and vibrant silence. Once in a while they looked at each other and sort of simultaneously they began to smile pushing aside any fear or hesitation. The smile turned to great joy as they both realized they saw Christ in each other. Thus, the Lord was there with them. That's indeed something to smile about.


In dealing with me, (Fred), you will find that I am more easily the listener than the talker/writer. I was always pretty silent. That may have been because I never had many friends starting with my time in World War II as a child, where there just weren't many friends to talk to. People had other things on their minds: surviving! Be that as it may. One thing is for sure, I always felt the Presence of the Lord. Maybe I did not advertise this openly but He is always on my mind. That is still the case for the most part, and it is true for a great many of us. Many, however, are sort of private about it, when in fact we should really be more vocal about it and evangelize!


I love listening to music when I write, specifically organ music. As I am writing/editing this piece, I am listening to Louis Vierne’s Symphony #1 in D minor, op. 14, on a Loft recording, performed by Martin Jean at Yale University, a magnificent instrument. When I was a kid, my Daddy took me along to all sorts of classical organ concerts in Europe. He went to the Lord when I was 21, but the love for organ music stayed with me all my life. The parish where I worship has a great organ in the loft and it is only recently that they’ve started to use it again. Marvelous!


Although I am not married, there are a few very special people in my life, people I write frequently, email even Facebook (I find Facebook too “public,” on the whole). In those people, I see the [suffering] Lord and they see Him in me, and according to Henri Nouwen that means that there is Holy Ground between us, because Jesus is there between us.


I was reading this part on page 45 as I was engaged in Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, one afternoon, in a small chapel with a couple of people around me. As there should be, there was total silence, and it is in that silence where we hear Him among us. I also have a friend who is not Catholic. That does not bother me. My criteria for friendship lies in how a person views other people. I get along with anyone who practices genuine charity. Humility helps too.


Fr. Nouwen writes, "From now on, wherever you go, or wherever I go, all the ground between us will be holy ground." That is the true meaning of community - and when we are engaged as a group in a Secular Franciscan Fraternity, for example, we are on Holy Ground because the Lord is among us, just as St. Francis is among us.


In this season of Lent, there is much consideration of other people. There are so many who do not have empathy for other people (the ability to understand each other). Many who lack understanding do not even try. You see, they do not even care. I care deeply about others, not with my wallet (always short of funds) but with my heart.


Lent is a valuable time in our lives. It prepares us for the death of Jesus Christ and his rising to sit at the right of the Father in Heaven. The death of Jesus is our Salvation. He Redeemed us so that we can spend Eternity with Him forever!


Fred Schaeffer, OFS
March 5, 2018


A Gift of a New Life
A Biography
by Fred Schaeffer, OFS 2019

Secular Franciscan Order
Ordo Franciscanus Sæcularis

Divine Mercy Fraternity

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Term expires: 2/10/2022

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