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Brian Harper :
26 article(s)

Brian Harper is a writer, musician and community outreach coordinator for a small business. He has lived in Peru, South Africa, and Italy, and his writing has been featured in America magazine, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and various other print and online publications. You can find his work at www.brianharper.net.
March 9th, 2014
40 Days Searching for the Sound of Silence

The renowned Jesuit priest Father James Martin, S.J. once said, “[T]here’s no best, or only way to pray. Whatever works best for you-imagining yourself with God, quietly meditating on a favorite Scripture passage, or reciting an old prayer that comforts you-is what’s best for you.”
Discovering the “best way” to pray tends to involve finding the right environment for prayer. Inside or outdoors? Alone or with others? Speaking out loud or keeping silent?
The possibilities are infinite. I entered this year’s Lent with the assumption that silent meditation in a quiet room is the best scenario for me to find some degree of inner peace. Perhaps it is better to say this…

March 8th, 2014
40 Days Searching for the Sound of Silence

 
If the title of this blog post made you think of the African American spiritual, click here. If it reminded you of the Paul McCartney and Wings classic, click here. And if I’m an idiot for wasting your time with this stuff, click here.
Now, on to Lent.
My  practice of spending 10-15 minutes a day in intentional silence has begun swimmingly enough, which is really to say I have not missed any of Lent’s three days. God must be overwhelmed by my heroic efforts.
So far, I have done  all my meditations in my bedroom. I live on the first floor of a beautiful house in Milwaukee’s Riverwest neighborhood. The building is more than 100 years old and has many fine qualities. Thick, sound-proof walls…

March 5th, 2014
40 Days Searching for the Sound of Silence

Ah, Lent. At no time of year is the discrepancy between my ambition and ability more evident.
In years past, I have generally seen Lent as an opportunity to accomplish personal goals and address shortcomings. Tired of eating so much chocolate? Give it up for Lent. Want to write an epic one-man musical about the life of Theodore Roosevelt? Set up a strict schedule, and do it for Lent.
In years when I was feeling particularly industrious, I even came up with two or  three Lenten practices! Inevitably, I failed and probably did so for a number of reasons. Some of my Lenten ideas were dumb, e.g. the Teddy Roosevelt musical. Others were overly-zealous, e.g. the Teddy Roosevelt musical. Others had nothing to do with the…

February 21st, 2014

A life of faith does not mean a life free of suffering. Whether through the lessons of the Cross or the hard knocks that are an inevitable part of existence, it is a given that often we must pass through dark valleys to reach green pastures.
St. Lidwina is an overwhelming example of this. Born in 1380 in Schiedam, a town in what is today the Netherlands, the Dutch saint had a Marian devotion from a young age. She often prayed before her town’s shrine to the Holy Mother for entire nights. On one such evening, she is said to have had a divine revelation of the pain that would become one of the defining characteristics of her life.
Around the time she was 15, Lidwina fell while ice skating with friends. In the process, she broke…

January 22nd, 2014

When I was diagnosed with pericarditis — an inflammation of the fibrous sac around the heart — while volunteering in Peru, the reaction of a number of people surprised me. Until that point, most of my Peruvian friends had demonstrated no medical proclivity whatsoever. Suddenly, I had no shortage of people anxious to share any tidbit of therapeutic information they could.
“You’re lonely,” said some. “You need a girlfriend. Or more male friends.” While I appreciated their concern that I was living with four female roommates, this theory seemed to fall short in explaining how my heart’s membrane swelled to unhealthy proportions.
“You are so skinny,” offered the cooks at the parish…

April 25th, 2013

The Christian narrative is, to borrow the cliché, a matter of life and death.
I do not mean this in a Bible-thumping, accept-Jesus’-death-to-save-your-soul-and-find-life sense. Rather, I am talking about the possibility of the most gruesome, violent of deaths giving way to the most dramatic and powerful of new lives.
A few weeks ago, my Jesuit Volunteer community shared dinner with a group of Sacred Heart nuns. Before the meal, a Spanish woman living with the nuns and discerning a call to religious life led us in a series of activities reflecting on resurrection. In one instance, she pointed out that Jesus’ female followers were the first to learn of His resurrection. She suggested that this is because…

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