July, 2014

Christ’s peace! I thought I would post a monthly newsletter here on my website for those who are interested in my ongoing works and adventures. This year has been filled with traveling and turning points, including my pilgrimage to South Africa and visit with Archbishop Tutu, the death of my beloved father, a four month national speaking tour on my new book, “The Nonviolent Life,” my work on www.campaignnonviolence.org, and then over a month living in France.

As you may know, I attended a long Buddhist writing retreat with my friend Natalie Goldberg, author of “Writing Down the Bones,” in central France in June. Thirty of us lived on a 300 year old farm, in the Southwest, which has been turned into a beautiful retreat center for artists, musicians and writers.

We had a wonderful week of quiet meditation and writing practice. I was given a fine old stone farmhouse with blue shudders surrounded by blue hydranegias, exactly want anyone would hope for if they were in France. It was located in the tiny village of “La Solitude” and the house was called “La Petite Solitude.” I did lots of writing, meditation and mindfulness walking.

After time in Paris, I stayed in Bergerac, near Bordeaux, and traveled by myself out into the country to Plum Village, the Buddhist retreat center, to visit my friend and teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh. He lives there with some 300 monks, and had just finished a month long retreat for 1000 people. Some 300 visitors were still there, and a few days later, he was to begin another 3 week retreat with another 1000 people.

I’ve known Thich Nhat Hanh–Thay–for nearly 20 years, but had never visited him at his home in France. I arrived on a Sunday morning, just as Thay was leading 600 people on a short mindfulness walk to a massive lotus pond down in a green valley. It was a gorgeous summer morning, and everyone walked slowly in silence and then sat down around the pond in peaceful meditation.

Afterwards, he took me alone to his hermitage where we sat on the floor for over an hour, drinking tea and talking about life and peace–everything from our mutual friend, 93 year old Fr. Daniel Berrigan, to writing, my leaving the Jesuits, staying a priest, joining a diocese on the West coast, the church, Pope Francis, Jesus, Buddha, the Kingdom of God, the U.S., his work, his health, the community, his writing and so on.

What a blessing! I found Thay in much better health than during my last visit, and in great spirits. He’s just published about his 120th book, and agreed to write a foreword to my forthcoming book on Thomas Merton. I was stunned to see, next to his bed, two little shelves full of books on Buddhist teachings, all in Vietnamese, plus a few books by Thomas Merton and a few of my books.

Thich Nhat Hanh embodies the Zen practice of living in the present moment of peace. Being with him was like spending an afternoon with Gandhi. I consider him one of the greatest living peacemakers. His teachings on mindfulness are crucial for all of us, especially Christians, who want to live in peace, and practice peace, and help spread peace.

Afterwards, he invited me to sit with him during lunch, which was quite an experience because that meant I was up front, in the midst of 600 people… Two hours in the lotus position for all to see!

Afterwards, I stayed for the annual open house which was marvelous–500 guests, all locals from the Bordeaux countryside, and tons of delicious vegetarian food for everyone. [Check out: www.plumvillage.org] He invited me to come and live with him this winter which I may do.

After a week in the South of France, I returned to New Mexico and made my annual eight day silent retreat at the Benedictine Monastery in Pecos. Now I’m working on “Campaign Nonviolence.” We have over 110 demonstrations planned across the country in all fifty states starting the week of Sept. 21 against war, poverty and environmental destruction and for a new culture of peace and nonviolence.

I’m also working on one of the national organizing committees for the massive “People’s Climate March” on Sept. 21 in New York City, and hope to see everyone there!

On August 2nd, we will hold our annual Hiroshima Day peace vigil in Los Alamos, New Mexico, and everyone is welcome to join us! I am also preparing my next book, “Walking the Way: Following the Nonviolent Jesus on the Lenten Journey to the Cross and Resurrection,” which will come out later this year, and finishing another book, “Thomas Merton, Peacemaker,” which will appear early in 2015 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Thomas Merton’s birth.

With everyone, I grieve the death of all those killed by Israel in Gaza, the victims of the Ukraine war plane crash, and all who die from war and poverty. I hope and pray we can all pursue the Gospel life of peace, love and nonviolence with renewed vigor and continue to build the global grassroots movement of nonviolence.

Thank you for all your support for my work for peace! Please keep me in your good prayers. Sending blessings of peace, hope and love to everyone, Fr. John