ORLANDO, Fla. — Best-selling author and acclaimed poet Kathleen Norris was the opening keynote speaker at the Catholic Health Assembly on Sunday afternoon, June 5. Norris, a Benedictine oblate for 30 years, is known for such spiritual classics as Dakota and The Cloister Walk.
In keeping with the 2016 assembly theme of "The Culture of Encounter," Norris talked about the need for a theology of encounter, but emphasized how difficult it is to put that into practice when we seem to be surrounded by a culture of anti-encounter, exemplified by the political diatribes and social media smears rampant in contemporary culture. Added to the elements of trust, humility, time, respect and compassion that a person needs for any real encounter, she also emphasized the element of surprise.
Norris told stories about convoluted travels, the care of her aging parents and her "connoisseurship" of emergency rooms as situations that provided unexpected encounters with good, interesting, brave and honest people she would never have known. She ended her remarks with readings of several poems, some by her and some by other poets, all expressing aspects of the gift of unexpected encounter.