Interview with Sister Florence, a practicing Franciscan for 40+ years. She founded Kairos Contemplative and Meditation Retreat Center
This is a summary (not a full transcript) of the interview
How did Sister Florence get started with a spiritual practice? She started reading about catholic needs for houses of prayer. She wanted to have a place for retreat. She got approved to look into houses of prayer. She went to Detroit to help figure this out.
It is like a dream to Florence, she was not the carpenter, or organizer, but helping hands came to do what needed to be done. She credits God with wanting the work done. She wanted a place out in the country. In 1976 she bought the place in the Northwest for $51K, with 27 acres. Her intent was to offer a place, (she believes we’re all directed by our unique history) the silence will be number one, withdrawal time from the busyness.
She makes a home for groups and individuals. With groups “they’re already on the train”, they respect and honor that. For individuals they make a home, and provide love and caring, so that they too know the “truth of their own wonderful being”. She and Rita want to do “God’s work”.
How did you pick the name Kairos?
14:30: She asked for input, and then she went to the chapel and picked up a book. And the author used the word Kairos in contrast to Chronos. Kairos is always momentary, always present moment. No past, no future, can’t use either. Present moment is the sacred of saintly living. She can pray sweeping the floor, or whatever else task. Inner attitude of service and love. It’s an atmosphere more than telling.
16:00: What is your meditation practice like?
They start their day with quiet contemplation, reads scriptures, and then listen to various sound good teachers on spiritual practice. Some is Tibetan, or Buddha, some Christian. They are just here to facilitate in whatever way that occurs to them. Being human, we like to feel good and accomplished.
There’s an inner attitude that says that whatever the moment holds, you hold it in a prayerful way. Because to want the pleasures or the consolations, and they don’t come, then we usually don’t go back. We want things to satisfy the human person.
We learn to live the way of the cross, resurrection joy. To enter the human suffering. There is a place for us, because of our fidelity to the journey. A lot of that is just plugging away. We may not get anything for weeks or months. Don’t expect anything, receive what is given, with thanks. Everything has a purpose.
20:00 What is your advice for folks who go to retreats, and they losen up destructive habit patterns, but then they struggle a week later when they’re out of the retreat. What do you do when you struggle to integrate what you learn into their daily life?
- “You have to will it, you must find a way to enter the silence.
- Let nature teach you the wisdom, that is within nature
- To broaden the inner scope.
- We’re here for one another
- What you do, or you do.. Ups me, or Down’s me.
- We’re one human spirit in different bodies.
- If you chose to continue in this, it’s important to watch your judgments.
- Say Yes to the moment, no matter whether it is painful, or whether it is glorious.
- We vacillate between good and down, but if we enter all , we enter the suffering of Christ.
- You clear the mind, and sit in a state of receptivity, “get behind the thinking mind”.
- If we stay true to the course, we’ll change.
- We’re more than our bodies, we’re more than our thinking mind.
We don’t get it because there are so many distractions, materialities, and other things that draw us. We complicate things by putting our time and effort into things that are passing. It just means the journey has to go on.
We put our wisdom traditions in a pot and mix it together. We touch that sacred moment, wed the human spirit to that person. It’s a sacred moment. I haven’t come anywhere in 45 years, I’m still very much as I was, but my insights taught me to be faithful to the journey, don’t seek the good, don’t seek the destructive. But put your spiritual eyes towards “God”. She talks about Finley and how she likes listening to this teacher.
24:30 How has this practice helped you through times of struggle?
Yes, because you know everything is transitory, everything passes. Next second it’s gone. But what people struggle with is how things emotionally grab them. You are not your emotion. Repetitive negative reactions depend on how they were wounded. So much pain for some people. Sometimes she’ll recommend someone with suffering first go to a therapist, counseling, before taking the next step with them.
No matter who she is, does not make her better than anybody else. Because the infinite love has no time to look at sinfulness. The brokenness that we walk in through our live. Everyone has a place where nothing has ever invaded, it’s sacred, the temple of our bodies. You don’t talk this way in Buddhism, but you seek the way beyond thinking.
27:30 The kingdom is spread right here, nirvana is right here, the kingdom is within already, what happens if people don’t realize that it’s already here?
Sin for her is contrary to love, but we’re all broken, we all have our shortcomings. Some of the most wonderful people she knows are recovering alcoholics.
We have pictures and words of God, but of course none of that is really god, we really don’t know. All unloving things in the world, are because of human pain. We don’t know what we say is heard. We all hear the same things differently because of our backgrounds. If we all do something loving, we help lift them up.
32:00 Violence in life
33:00 What has she learned from all the groups that have come to Kairos.
We can find a way to let them to who they are. Everything good is given. We were at one (Adam and Eve), but we thought we could do it on our own. But we can’t. We can see after a while that there was a purpose for that. In order to see light you have to go into the dark. And that is why in groups you can do it, without having to do it alone.
34:00 Sister Florence then talks about her parents. Her father gave her the spirit to simply let things be, and to know love. Her mother made her do things she didn’t want to do, which was also good. You become that love, let it through you. She never met a person that she didn’t like. She may not like their dress, etc, but she never met a person that she didn’t reverence.
36:20 What do you say to folks who don’t have time to go to retreats? What advice do you have for them?
- Take walks, and feel the in-breath and out-breath,
- Let the body be an instrument of quieting
- Take a scripture, or Zen reading, and sit 15-20 minutes, and stop when something strikes you, and then stop and journal it.
- Journaling helps us objectify our inner thinking. After a week or 2-3 you start to see growth.
- She gives some examples
- You have to work at it, not as a labor, but a labor of love.
- Do it daily
- What do you do with the time you’ve been given, those 24 hours?
- Put away your gizmos away for a small period of time every day
- Just let “God” love you, don’t worry about deserving the love, or doing praying to “get something”.
- Mentions the Prodigal Son. The last verse is the most powerful, I’ve done everything you wanted me to do, but you didn’t give me a feast. “Son, all these years I’ve given you everything I have”. Right now, every moment God is loving us. When we know God’s love, we will see a new creation.
She’s positive at the end, and thinks we’ll get through as a human species.