by Pia Fritsch, Prairiewoods Intern

I’m getting a better picture of how Prairiewoods functions more and more. It takes quite a few people to get everything ready for guests. A lot of times that just means rearranging furniture and wiping down tables, but these things need to get done. During the facilities meeting I saw how people can look calm and collected. This is because all of the details are worked out ahead of time down to how many chairs and tables to put out for a certain group. These meetings take time out of everyone’s day, but it allows everyone to know exactly what the plan is for the upcoming week. If they didn’t do these meetings it would be easy for some information to be lost, and there would be a lot more last minute running around trying to get things ready. That would negatively affect the environment here which is what attracts people the most in the first place. It also takes a lot of scheduling and saying who will do what, when to make everything run smoothly.

I think it’s nice that there are so many volunteers who help out here. It creates a strong community. I can also see how having volunteers do important things can be challenging at times. Sometimes people don’t think they’re needed and don’t show up. Then other people need to do those duties. It is also nice that the staff share responsibilities for a lot of different tasks that need to get done here, but I also see how those added tasks can sometimes prevent people from getting enough time to do their main job. Then there are always unexpected things that happen like a stuck vacuum chord, or someone’s car breaks down, or printer malfunctions. You just have to learn to go with it, and make it work. And don’t forget to laugh. Honestly, I think the humor and positive affirmations is what makes it work. It makes all the difference that people thank you for what you’ve done.

Part of what I did in the past few days has been to help organize the auction items. It was good to see how that process happens. I’ve seen different giveaway baskets and things like it, but I never appreciated how much work goes into all of that. Then I helped a group of volunteers wrap the finalized baskets and make them look presentable. I also worked in the garden a bit. That was fun to mix it up. I wouldn’t want to do that all of the time, but it’s nice to have a variety of activities. I also started to read It’s Time: Challenges to the Doctrine of Faith by Michael Morwood. The main point it tries to make is that we need to bring the Catholic Doctrine into the current era by questioning the worldview in which the biblical texts were written and reevaluating their values with that context. This parallels what I have learned in class about how this time in history is tremendously important and also very tenuous. This is based on the consensus that this time period is a transition between paradigms, or stories. Our cultural story of the division between science and religion is ending. We have to create a new paradigm which unites the two. It’s Time argues this point. It also sheds light on Paul’s Christology, the historical reasons for his changes, and the consequences of them. One important clarification the author pointed out was that Jesus’s teaching about the fatherly love of God was not describing God himself but rather the unconditional love that God gives (47). Jesus taught this to redefine God as loving and merciful, not a God as a deity “who withheld mercy and forgiveness” (47). Morwood also clarifies the concept of salvation. He says it is not a salvation from sin or damnation but “salvation is about saving ourselves from the misery we humans inflict on ourselves” (36). Maharishi talks about a similar concept which is that suffering is not necessary in life. Life and spiritual experiences are about bliss and unity. I appreciate this redefinition of salvation, because it reframes a seemingly dark concept into a lighter and more applicable concept in today’s world. Sometimes I feel that scripture can be read as rather dark, because at the time it was presented, people wouldn’t have been receptive to the kind of light and blissful concept of spirituality that Maharishi presents. Sometimes I can’t even handle talking about bliss and joy as much as we do. However, many people’s world views are based in scripture and Morwood calls for a needed reevaluation of the origin of scripture and a reinterpretation of it. I wondered before I came here how scripture could fit into the modern world. Within the text there are great morals and insights, but my experience reading it was that you have to sift through a lot of dark and strange stories. Books like this are part of the process of making scripture more digestible and relevant to people’s lives today.

Fields of Compassion by Judy Cannato also discusses the importance of story. She says that story guides the meaning in our lives. Stories, according to Cannato, “are powerful containers for energy in our lives” (14). Story directs our focus, and what we put our attention on grows. Like It’s Time, Fields of Compassion suggests that a new story which marries science and religion needs to be born. This is important for both of the fields. Einstein said, “Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.” I never saw why the two had to conflict with each other, but the story in which many people have been brought up says just that. Reconnecting the two will help re-sacrilize the universe and the way we see it. The problems of reductionism and mechanism will be neutralized once reverence and appreciation of the divine is once again appreciated in all things. I have had more than one existential conversation with my brother about the futility of life if there is nothing more than the physical world. I have always believed that there is more, though I can’t say exactly why I feel that way. He doesn’t agree however, and that belief creates the feeling that life is meaningless. Then there are issues with blind faith as well. That excludes the ability to truly question and engage all thoughts and possibilities. That is why the New Universe Story is so important. The integration of the two will heal those schisms.