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On Thursday the 23rd, we had our third New View Film screening of the year: “The Many Storeys and Last Days of Thomas Merton.” This film screening was special in that the director, Morgan Atkinson, was able to join us from Louisville to introduce the film and hold a Q+A afterwards.

Thursday’s screening was also exciting because it was one of the most attended film screenings yet! The subject of Thomas Merton drew countless community members, and the Eidson Duckwall Recital Hall was filled to capacity.

The film follows Thomas Merton, a renowned American Trappist monk, writer, theologian, mystic, and social activist among other achievements, during the last year of his life in 1968. During this time, Merton embarked on a great adventure– he traveled around Asia meeting with spiritual seekers and learning about other religious traditions.

While in Asia, Merton met with the Dalai Lama and built a friendship with him. The film featured many interviews with Merton scholars and those who knew Merton, but the interview Atkinson was able to film with the Dalai Lama was particularly captivating.

The Dalai Lama described that he and Merton had a lot in common, and after Merton died unexpectedly, he felt an even greater responsibility.

After the film, Atkinson provided some insight into the process of making the film– particularly on his interview with the Dalai Lama. Atkinson said he was allowed to have a 5 minute interview with him, but when the Dalai Lama heard he was going to be talking about Merton his face lit up and he ended up speaking for 10 minutes longer than scheduled.

In the discussion and Q+A following the film, audience members compared the turbulent time of 1968 with today’s political climate, and reflected on how Merton’s life and work still serves as inspiration today.

 

Join us for the next film!

The next New View Film in the series is called “Crazy Wisdom: The Life and Times of Chogyam Trungpa—By Johanna Demetrakas, 2011.” It tells the story of a Tiebetan mindfulness teacher who was one of the first people to bring mindfulness to the West. Chogyam Trungpa and Thomas Merton also met each other in 1968 while Merton was traveling through Asia. The film will be on March 25th at 7pm in the Eidson Duckwall Hall. We hope to see you there!

On Celebrating Holidays

Holidays, literally “Holy Days,” evoke myriad images and memories in our collective consciousness. Christians around the world are in the midst of a series of holiday celebrations as we mark the transition from the old year to the new year: Christmastide began on December 25th and ends on January 5th, ushering in the season of Epiphany, which lasts from January 6th until Ash Wednesday (in the Western Christian tradition), this year marked on Wednesday, February 26th. The secular West also celebrates the new year on January 1st, but really the bulk of the celebrations of this holiday happen on New Year’s Eve, December 31st, saying goodbye to the old year and welcoming the new year at the stroke of midnight with feasting, toasting, kissing, making noise, and general merrymaking.

What is it about human nature that propels us to set aside specific days or periods of time for merrymaking, commemoration, remembrances, or other forms of marking sacred time in the midst of our ordinary lives? Every religious tradition celebrates its own holidays, so deeply ingrained are they in our collective human consciousness. Because the modern West has been so thoroughly shaped by the Christian worldview, most of the holidays we are aware of track Christian commemorations, even if the religious significance of those days has been all but lost. Christmas and Easter are the two most prominent holidays of the Christian religious tradition. In the Jewish tradition we find a number of significant holidays throughout the year, including Passover, Yom Kippur, Rosh HaShanah, and Hanukkah. Muslims fast each year during the holy month of Ramadan and celebrate the feast of Eid to mark the end of the month of fasting. Hindus celebrate Holi and Diwali and many other holidays. Buddhists marks the Buddha’s birth each year with the celebration of Vesak. Sikhs celebrate the foundation of the Khalsa at Vaisakhi. Wiccans and Neopagans celebrate the turning of the year at the solstices and equinoxes with Yule, Imbolc, Ostara, Beltane, Litha, Lammas, Mabon, and Samhain.

Every religious tradition commemorates and celebrates its own holidays, days or periods of time set aside for religious devotion, commemoration, dedication, or remembrance. Holidays are times set aside as special and they often include specific foods, rituals, worship, gatherings, and other acts of devotion and commemoration to mark these high points of the year.

Holidays remind us of our calling above and beyond the drudgery of our daily lives. They call us to a higher purpose, a reminder that the human spirit transcends the quotidian details of our regular routines. Holidays are times set apart for family, for special food and drink, for reconnecting with our neighbors and friends near and far, for recommitting ourselves to our deeper vocations as religious people, for lifting us beyond our daily lives to appreciate the sacred mystery that surrounds us always and everywhere. Holidays remind us that our everyday lives are shot through with divine meaning and significance, however we might understand it. Holidays offer opportunities to rise above our daily drudgery to experience the peaks of religious significance in the midst of our everyday experience.

Whatever holidays you happen to celebrate, wherever and whenever you celebrate them, know that your celebration is infused with the divine reality and that your celebration compels you to manifest the blessings of your tradition in the wider world. May all of our holiday celebrations radiate outward in an eternal sanctification of our daily lives for the benefit of all beings.

What holidays have special significance for you? What traditions do you observe in connection with these holidays? Please share your reflections in the comments below.

Discovering Vocation

by Ben Martella 

My internship with the Center for Faith and Vocation was the first time that I had the opportunity to sit down and dissect the term vocation. I had always thought of the word and the concept of vocation as a solely religious term that would have no value in my agnostic philosophy of life. My internship through Catholic Charities challenged that thought and has since open my mind and heart to many things in the world. The CFV provided me with insight and guidance in navigating this vocation. I can say with conviction; I have gained many valuable lessons ranging from professional experience to spiritual exploration as well as community building with my internship through the CFV as a whole.

My internship experience centered around the work of Catholic Charities under the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. I want to be frank in saying that I do not agree entirely with the Catholic church, nor do I agree with some actions taken by the Archdiocese. Nonetheless, the experience sincerely changed my view of religious affiliated NGOs as well as the people that work for them. The people are undoubtedly some of the kindest and hardest working individuals. They devote hours of their time in a career that values service over everything. My contribution was working with refugees in education and acculturation. Essentially, I taught English as a New Language (ENL) classes as well as helped to develop curriculum for refugees in connecting to American culture and adapting to the community. It is an understatement to say that it was easier said than done. This proved to be one of the greatest gifts and challenges of this internship. I have developed an even deeper sense of love for the world and the people that derive from it.  I have realized that once we take away commonalities like language and culture, there is still so much humanity we can use to connect with one another.

My experience this semester has caused me to reflect on my goals and aspirations for the near future. I have always been serious about Peace Corps and have since set my mind to applying and realistically going as soon as graduation commences. It is something that I feel as though I must fulfill and have identified it as an opportunity to help to foster what will ultimately become my vocation.

by Alaina Hanke

Working at the Expungement Help Desk for the Neighborhood Christian Legal Clinic has been a very positive and eye-opening experience. I work face to face with people who have experienced the injustices of our criminal justice system, looking for a second chance to change their lives around. The system does not give people this opportunity because, although they served their time, the punishment continues on as they are unable to find jobs, apply for housing, apply for welfare, and much more. The vast majority of people coming to get their records expunged are grateful, positive, and happy, even when they had a challenging life story or an unjust experience. The hopeful attitudes of the people who come for expungement has stuck with me the most because of their ability to persevere and remain positive through such tough and unimaginable circumstances. This has caused me to really reflect on my vocation because it has shown me what my true interests, motivations, and passions are. It has led me to realize that I want to take my future in a direction that helps people, specifically with mental health within the prison system and with prisoner reentry. I have learned that doing direct work within the community and with people is something that is important to me because I want to be there to listen to someone’s story when other people may not have listened, I want to give people the benefit of the doubt, I want to help people change if they are ready to change, and I want to be a support system for those that need it. This internship has shown me how so many people’s lives have been ruined by our criminal justice system, rather than repaired, but expungement gives them the chance to repair it. At my internship, we created a poster that poses the question of “What will you do with your second chance?” We laid out cards so that people can write what they want to do with their new shot at life since their record won’t hold them back anymore. The responses are great and so many people have big plans for their futures. It is such a great thing to see every day when walking into work, knowing that I could help someone live the successful life that they deserve.

by Grace Langford

I worked at First Congregational United Church of Christ as the Just Peace intern. First Congregational Church passed a covenant last January to become a Just Peace church but wanted to know how to fully embody their Just Peace covenant better. Therefore, they decided to hire a Just Peace intern. In August, I decided to make the challenging career decision to change from actuarial science to management consulting. When I started my internship, the lead pastor, Pastor Sarah Lund, was so kind to allow me to set up my internship like a management consulting engagement, thus allowing me to have hands-on experience in my new field. I read many books about management consulting as well as about just peace while attending church and meetings with the First Congregational congregation.

One of my favorite parts of the internship was conducting informational interviews, a fancy management consulting term used to describe getting to know and gather information from people. I enjoyed coffee and lunch with many incredible people with fascinating life stories and a genuine heart for people. In addition, I collected data from surveys and spent ample time at the church getting to know the ins and outs. On my last day, I presented an hour presentation to the congregation with three actionable changes that reflect the feedback and church’s desires.

Another highlight of the internship was attending the Interfaith Network on Drone Warfare Conference at Princeton Seminary. Eighty religious leaders gathered to be educated and to learn how to educate others on the injustice of drone warfare. I so enjoyed the opportunity to talk to so many people from different religions, faiths, communities and geographic locations in the United States. While we were all so different, we united on justice and advocating against drone warfare.

This internship allowed me to look at vocation in a new light. For one, I had the opportunity to test out a new career and discover my love for it. At the same time, it allowed me to see the multiple facets of vocation to discover it is not just tied to the job title of our employer. Instead, it is a lifelong commitment to work and to bettering the world around us. I saw this beautifully displayed in so many retired members of the congregation who had different careers but work dutifully for the church and to serve the Indianapolis area. Overall, this internship has been integral not only in my liberal arts education, my career, but also my personal growth this semester. Thank you to the CFV and First Congregational for your support and engagement!

Last Thursday, on the last day of All in Week, the CFV partnered with the Center for Interfaith Cooperation as well as the Spirit and Place Festival to screen the latest film in the New View Series, “Backs Against the Wall: The Howard Thurman Story.” 

This film explores the life of one of the most important religious figures of the 20th century, Howard Thurman. Thurman was the grandson of slaves, and eventually became a spiritual leader for the Civil Rights Movement. He also inspired many influential Civil Rights leaders, such as Martin Luther King Jr.

The film also discussed how Howard Thurman was a Mystic, and had a great respect and interest in nature, non-violent social action, as well as learning about other religious traditions. He famously traveled to India in 1936 in what was known as a “pilgrimage of friendship.” While there, he visited Mahatma Gandhi who was also advocating for nonviolent action.

In the spirit of Thurman’s interfaith work, Thursday’s event began with three prayers from Butler students of different religious traditions: Buddhist, Christian, and Hindu.

After the event, the audience was treated to a panel of two local religious leaders who knew Howard Thurman himself, Reverend Brown and Bishop Roach. They discussed Thurman’s hypnotizing, slow, and deliberate way of speaking, and how he was such an important figure in influencing the Civil Rights movement.

Audience members joined the discussion to reflect on Thurman’s influence, and how his ideals and values can be applied to social justice issues today.

Thank you to everyone who attended the film screening and participated in the discussion! We hope to see you at our next film, “The Many Storeys and Last Days of Thomas Merton—By Morgan Atkinson” on January 23. The film director, Morgan Atkinson, will be attending our event and will be hosting the discussion afterwards.

Taking care of your health and well-being is often challenging for college students. It’s hard to prioritize wellness when there are so many other things going on.

The CFV Communications intern is launching a new podcast called “College Well” with the goal of exploring the question: “how do I take care of myself in college?”

Wellness does not end with eating healthy food and getting 8 hours of sleep. It also can involve your spirituality, relationships, self-reflection, and how you make your decisions.

For the introductory episode, we interviewed Beth Lohman from the HRC about BuBeWell’s mission, and the importance of being conscious of your mental and physical health as a college student.

Each of the next episodes will be related to the topics of Mind, Body, Spirit, and Vocation. Stay tuned!

Listen here:

By Julia Bluhm

On Thursday, September 5th the Center for Faith and Vocation kicked off its annual “A New View Film Series” with the film Dakota 38. Dr. Courtney Mohler, who is a professor of theater and a person of Native American descent, began the evening with a land acknowledgement and also lead the discussion following the film. The discussion after the film was particularly memorable– a diverse number of community members shared their reactions and engaged in thoughtful conversation.

The film Dakota 38 addresses issues of injustice within the Native American community both historically and in the context of present day. The film is named for a tragedy that occurred in 1862, under President Abraham Lincoln. 38 Dakota men were hanged in what is still the largest mass execution in American history.

To honor those killed in this tragedy, there is an annual 330-mile horseback ride from Lower Brule, South Dakota to Mankato, Minnesota to arrive at the hanging site on the anniversary of the execution. The film follows the men, women and children who participated in the ride, from showing the harsh blizzard conditions they rode through to the kindness they experienced from local inhabitants who housed them on their journey.

Another big part of the film’s focus was the institutional genetic depression and epidemic of suicide among the Native American community. Native Americans are 10 times more likely to die of suicide than any other population. This epidemic is caused by the historical attack on Native American culture, suppression of Native American identity, and theft of land. These factors lead to extreme poverty, drug addiction, and mental health problems. For decades, Native American children have been sent to boarding schools that prohibited them from practicing religious rituals or displaying any part of their culture. This is just one example of the nation-wide attack and suppression of their culture.

One especially impactful part of the film, which came up a lot in the discussion, was that at the very end of the film it was revealed that several of the young men who had participated in the ride had died of suicide before the film’s release.

Community members compared the discrimination of Native American people to the deep-rooted discrimination of African Americans in this country. Several people also expressed surprise at the fact that Abraham Lincoln, a man celebrated for the abolishment of slavery, signed off on the execution of the Dakota 38. One community member, who is a Native American from Indiana, shared his personal experience with the epidemic of suicide in his community.

The film screening of Dakota 38 was educational but also incredibly eye-opening due to the emotional responses of the audience. If you feel inspired to help this cause, consider writing to your government officials and asking them to prioritize funding for mental health programming for Native communities.

by Maggie Kieffer

When I walked into the first day of my internship with the Project GRACE Help Desk, I was just kind of thrown into the work. Over the course of the semester I have had the privilege of helping some really patient, kind, wonderful people; and when I had to deal with someone who was less kind or less patient, I took a deep breath and realized how incredibly overwhelming that first day learning about expungement was for me. And I’m a college-educated adult who wants to go into this profession. I always try to think about the process from the perspective of the person on the other side of the desk. These individuals – often African American men and women or poor white individuals – made mistakes within a system that doesn’t always work in their favor. Often times, I have heard stories about men and women who were charged with crimes because of their economic status or race, rather than on the credibility of their character. I have even seen black men come in with the same crimes as white men, but charged with higher level convictions on a first-time offense than a routine white offender. I have been confronted with errors in the system I want to enter professionally for the rest of my life. And, now that my semester is over, I am faced with the fact that I am one step closer into being a part of the system. This mentality of looking at a legal problem from the accused persons’ or convicted persons’ eyes is something that will forever impact my life, and I have this internship with the CFV and Help Desk to thank for that.

by Rachael Jacobs 

Over this past semester I had an internship with Catholic Charities teaching English to refugees. For this blog post I have decided to talk about the part of my experience that was both the most rewarding and the most challenging. About halfway through the semester, as I wrote one of my journal reflections about my time at work so far, I thought that my biggest accomplishment was, both at that time and what I thought would continue to be, watching the academic growth of my students. I could not have been more wrong. While being able to watch my students become more fluent was rewarding, it was nowhere near as rewarding as noticing the differences in the way my students looked at me day to day. It was nowhere near as rewarding as picking up on the ways in which our conversations about life outside of class evolved day to day. It can be hard for me to make connections like this with people within my own comfort zone, let alone those from another culture and language. But the barrier that I thought would be ever-present between us got knocked down after the first day. That is what was so rewarding for me: not only being able to impact their lives outside of class time, but the ways in which they impacted my life as well. The largest lesson that I learned from this was how similar we all really are. All of us want to be loved and accepted, no matter where we come from, the color of our skin, or what language we speak. This is not to disregard the differences that exist, however – those are just as important. It is through these differences that we are able to learn more about the world and the ultimate experience that everyone both shares and holds uniquely at the same time. In this way I was successful and in this way my experience was the most memorable.

 

 

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