Dear people of St. Anne’s,
Thank you for your warmth in hosting me for our “Keeping Hope Alive” event and Walking with Justice book signing. What a wonderful evening with my brother, Fr. Bob, and all of you!
I enjoyed sharing lessons learned from my mentor, Judge Max Rosenn, a man who created a life of uplifting himself and all those around him. For those who asked for a synopsis of the talk, we looked at three characteristics that allowed Judge to be a powerful agent of hope for others.
1. Presence. Judge was fully present. He had a practice of living in the here and now. He processed the past, not getting caught up in anger, resentment, or regrets. He let go of anxieties or worries about what may come, pulling back from the unknowns of the future to this moment where he could take action toward creating the future.
He radiated presence, sometimes creating a seemingly sacred space with his full attention and compassion, which allowed others to show up more fully. We talked about kavanah (page 68), a mindset for prayer that Judge brought to his interactions with others. I read Conscious in St. Croix (page 62), a reminder that the simple act of listening and allowing others to speak their truth can foster justice and restore hope.
2. Stewardship. Judge brought to life the concept of giving generously of time, talent, and treasure and showed how this concept is not separate from the business world. We are called as stewards in our church, community, and career.
Watching Judge steward taught me that at its core level, stewardship is about gratitude and respecting the dignity of our humanity. It is about seeing all within us and around us as gift, thanking those who nourish us and generously sharing our gifts for the benefit of all, especially the most vulnerable.
I read Clothespins (page 52), a reminder that we are called to respect the needs of all people and do what we can to meet these needs in a way that helps them maintain their dignity.
3. Daily Rejuvenation, in partnership with God. Judge did not create a distinction between his faith and his work. They nurtured each other. He brought a common sense approach to rejuvenating his mind, body, and soul on a daily basis.
I shared a couple of my favorite spirituality quotes. C. S. Lewis reminded us, “You don’t have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body.” French philosopher Pierre Teilhard de Chardin observed, “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.” Although Judge and I never talked about these quotes, I have no doubt he would espouse their wisdom based on the daily decisions he made to fuel himself mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
We talked about our need for daily connection with God through prayer, silence, meditation, or other methods. If we do not afford ourselves a daily connection to our spirit, we will never be guided toward our full potential and we will make a lesser difference in the lives of others.
I read Prayers Big and Small (page 78), talking about how Judge lived his life as an offering and exploring the shared philosophy between our Christian and Jewish faiths.
We wrapped up our time talking about the double-sided coin of hope. When It seems all hope is gone and our greatest challenge is keeping hope alive amidst despair, then the greatest gift we can give to another is the gift of hope. As my mentor said, “In times of great uncertainty and need, you will have doubts. Also have hopes. Have dreams.”
I won’t repeat all of the (perceptive!) questions from the Q&A segment, but would be happy to provide any further clarifications. You may contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
One final question I do want to respond to is one that was raised in feedback: “How could one man provide so much wisdom?”
Two answers come to me, one focusing on the teacher and the other on the student.
The Teacher. I talked about Judge as a just man. What I didn’t highlight is what this really means is that God justified him, transforming him into a man who shared in God’s own holiness and righteousness. Judge’s part of this partnership was to be completely open to all that God wanted to accomplish through him. He lived and breathed service to his creator and to humanity. This is reflected in his simple daily prayer: “God, help me make a contribution to a just and peaceful world.”
We must remember that not only was Judge a just man, but also he was just a man. All of the qualities that we talked about Judge exhibiting (presence, love, faith, hope, vision, wisdom, courage, humility, vibrancy, gratitude, compassion) were not things he created. These qualities come from God and are only revealed in us when we open ourselves up to the divine. Judge accessed these attributes through his relationship with God and expressed them through his relationship with others.
The Student. As I acknowledge in the book, there are times when gems of wisdom can sound trite and other times when they resonate at a soul level with their truth. The difference may not be in the depth or timelessness of the wisdom itself, but in the listener.
When joining Judge’s side as a young new lawyer, I was open to learning from his experience and wisdom. A tremendous amount soaked in. Fifteen years later, when my life had deconstructed from a cardiac virus and I felt a call to return to Judge’s teaching and bring his love and wisdom to the world, I was even more open and his guidance resonated deeply.
The same dynamic is true for people who read this book or listen to me recount these lessons in my speeches. The exact same sentence may hit as an epiphany for one, causing a transformative shift on the spot, while it lands as a warm fuzzy or even a disposable banality for another. All of these experiences are real and are legitimate.
It is not that a person experiencing an epiphany is more advanced or a better listener. It simply means that the context of their life in some way is providing fertile ground for the seeds to take hold. The words met them where they were searching for meaning for a particular situation while others may not find any helpful insights.
I encourage you not to focus so much on my mentor as the source of transformative wisdom, but on how his guidance may apply to the challenges or struggles of your own life. Before picking up this book, open your heart to what God may will for you and bring a curiosity to how the words may lead you toward the possibilities of your own life and greater service to others.
With gratitude and love,