June 4, 2018
On Monday, June 4, thirty-five persons gathered in the abbey’s calefactory for our fifth annual symposium, this one titled “Listening with the Heart.” The title was drawn from something said at the previous year’s symposium, when the Vatican’s apostolic delegate, Archbishop Christoph Pierre, emphasized that if we are really going to be able to understand persons of different political or religious persuasions, we have to be able to listen to them with the heart. Meditation, as one important way of nurturing this ability, was accordingly the focus of this year’s symposium, which ran from mid-morning till mid-afternoon. The morning session was led by Mrs. Kerrith McKechnie, who has taught the practice of meditation for many years at her place in the Shenandoah Valley. To introduce the various periods of actual meditation, she spoke very movingly of the need for all of us, including very young children, to feel loved and cared for—a need felt even by non-human animals, such as the copperhead snake and the black bear featured in two of her stories! After a catered lunch provided by one of the participants, the afternoon featured relatively brief presentations by representatives of five major religious traditions on one or several ways in which meditation is practiced in that tradition. This kind of interreligious exchange was a practical way of showing how we can all learn from one another, which has been one of the aims of our symposia from the very beginning five years ago.