our prayer word for the month of September which is just about to slip into
October. In his many beautiful words Thomas Merton once wrote,
“Some people never see a tree
they are ready to saw it down.”
You are a creature of wonder.
You are a poet. You are a poet
not because of what you write but because of how you see. Not everyone has discovered the hidden poet
in their souls. In the following reflection
I am offering you some images that will hopefully draw forth the poet in your
soul. Where do poems live?How well do you see?Bring forth your receiving eyes.Come forward with a seeing heart.Listen carefully, and you will hear a quiet
voice murmuring:May I have your
attention please?We will never be
people of wonder until we learn to pay attention.
I just turned the page of my 2014 calendar and drank in the new
word that is to be the theme for this month. My word to live for the
month of September is WONDER and I am in dire need of sitting in its
shade. But then I remembered that I hadn't written about my August word
yet so I turned the calendar back to August and gazed at the word SOLITUDE.
The picture for the month depicts my friend and sister in
community sitting in a lovely outdoor dwelling with a cup in her hand,
presumably coffee, and I ask myself, "does this really depict deep
solitude?" What would need to go to truly depict solitude? Probably
the cup and the caffeine! But let's not get hung up on semantics.
This is just my take one it.
Recently I saw a lovely outdoor scene with a woman lying on a
diving board reading a book. The caption was: SOLITUDE! I
found myself saying, “wrong!” Throw the book in the lake.
Get off the diving board.
So truly, what is solitude?
Are you afraid of it? Do you find
it healing? When you are in solitude, do
you look for distractions? Or, do you
slowly begin to taste the sweetness of solitude? I believe that can happen only after we learn
to be comfortable with the gift of stillness and silence. When I truly learn how to be alone by
choice—how to embrace solitude as friend, I slowly cease looking for
distractions. I learn to melt into being. I begin to be comfortable in being with the self that is me.
In looking at the word solitude I see a relation to the word
latitude. The sol of solitude suggests aloneness
which also points to space, the space around us and even within us. The word, latitude,
points to space: geographical space, universal space: the breadth, width, size of something. Why not personal space? Although I have not taken the time to look
this up entomologically I can see a kinship.
And so when I use St. Paul’s
beautiful words from Ephesians 3: 16-19
I find myself being moved into solitude.
The space around me seems to grow larger and I find myself move into a
The more I practice this kind of solitude alone, the more I will
discover that when I am with a group of people some of that space around me lingers and it is easier for
me to remain calm in troubling situations.
Out of his infinite glory,
may you be
given the power,
through his Spirit,
for your hidden self
to grow strong,
so that Christ may live in your hearts
through faith, and then,
planted in love and built on love,
with all the saints
have strength to grasp the
the height and the depth;
until knowing the love of Christ,
is beyond all knowledge,
you are filled with the utter fullness
Ephesians 3: 16-19—Jerusalem Translation
Find a space alone and ask yourself, What is the latitude of my heart!
...and I never got around to writing about my word for that month.
The word was MYSTERY!
My neglect in writing did not prevent me
from attempting to dwell in the heart of mystery.
July is my birth month.
Truly it was a mixture of birth/death, wounds/healing, doubt/faith,
hope/discouragement and more.
I've always loved mystery stories.
The greatest of all mysteries is the story of one’s life.
In this month of my birth I prayed with the mystery of my life.
The symbol I used for my prayer was a path, call it
what you will: a road, a trail, a track or footpath. The path I chose at the beginning of July was
one that led into a forest. It reminded
me of the path I used to take through the forest of our old homestead in Arkansas to my Aunt Annie’s
On a pathway there is mystery. You can’t always see what’s behind the next
tree. Nor can you detect the animal
sounds in the forest. Is it
friendly? Is it harmful? For some reason, in those young years of my
life, I was seldom afraid of the path through the woods. It was mysterious yet strangely known, kind
of like God.
As I moved into the month of July it occurred to me
that it might be fun to take a different path every few days and re-experience some
of the mystery stories of my life. There
the hillside trail leading from the valley
where I lived, up the hill and through the woods that led to St. Mary’s Church and School
the path around Lake Fort Smith that I miss now
that the new lake has been created
a path from the Quiet House at Laity Lodge
(Kerrville TX) to the upper rim of the canyon where I could watch sunrises and
an unforgettable green moss trail in the
Blue Ridge mountains of North Carolina (Maggie Valley)
the winding labyrinth path on the grounds
of St. Scholastica Monastery, Fort Smith, Arkansas
the path through the vineyards of Altus, Arkansas that I traveled with my brother, praying the rosary, when my little sister was dying
the deer trail through the forest
surrounding San Damiano Retreat in Danville, CA
the little country roads where I could walk
through farmlands in Canterbury, NZ viewing the amazing pastures of sheep
the walking trail around St.Mary's Lake (Notre Dame campus) July of 1997 when I feared I might have cancer. I'll always recall those morning walks filled with both angst and therapeutic beauty
the forest trails at Jamberoo Abbey (New South Wales) quietly trekking through the woods at dusk looking for wombats. (never saw one)
and then there are those inner trails that run through the path of my heart and soul nudging me into creativity, exploration, continual growth. I am always tracking the mystery.
In between all the trails of my life I have never forgotten that Christ is my way!
Many paths of memory! Each path holds a mystery story of my life! I could pray a trail for the rest of my life and never be finished reading the pages of my life. I want to allow the holy-healing mystery of life to continue its journey flowing through me like a stream or bubbling brook. The quiet trails are like gentle streams. The rushing brook is full of obstacles and yet as the poet, Wendell Berry, explains, It's the obstacles that help make the music. I want my life to remain a song.
O Beautiful Mystery Where is the life that once held me in its sometimes gentle, sometimes terrible grasp? That life lives on; I am every age I've ever been! How easy it is to forget as I walk through the day that I carry within me layers of life, layers of ages. My life is a mystery story still unfolding It is a good life full of joys and sorrows, promises kept, promises broken memories and forgetfulness. O God of so much mystery Continue to dwell in the layers of my life. Be my way when I lose the way. May it come to pass!
I am in the
infirmary, an effort to take better care of my broken foot so it can heal. This infirmary room is slowly becoming a monk cell for me. I am a bit more confined and so I am less
tempted to pace. It has become a sacred space for healing I keep staring at
the helium balloon that hangs from my ceiling, “Get Well,” it says. It sounds like a very simple request, a kind
wish from a good friend. Little did she
realize what metaphysical ponderings this get-well-wish would work in me!
What does it
mean to get well? There are times when I
am not actually sick yet need to get well.
At the moment, yes, my foot needs to heal. However I can think of numerous ways I need
to get well.
my attitude limps and I start feeling sorry for myself I need to get well
I find myself complaining about every little thing, I need to get well
I get so busy I forget to take time for solitude and prayer, I need to get well
I let grudges reign in my heart, I need to get well
I find myself critical and impatient with others, I need to get well
I bring only half a heart to my daily living, I need to get well
I find myself disgustingly self-righteous, I need to get well
·When what I own becomes more important than the people I live with, I need
to get well
I spend more time judging others than affirming them I need to get well...
could go on and on. I could write until
tomorrow. I write these things not to be
overly critical of myself but rather as a gentle reminder that there are ways I
am not living up to my full potential. Since I would like to be the best version
of myself that I can be, these words are a way of prayer.
poet Rumi affirms our goodness when he says:
“If you knew yourself for even one moment! If you could glimpse your beautiful
soul! Maybe you wouldn't slumber so
deeply in that house of clay. Why not
move into your house of joy and shine into every crevice? You are a treasure; and always have
DIDN'T YOU KNOW?
same message St. Paul gives us in 1 Cor 3:16:
Do you not know that you are a temple of
and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?
And so, all
of you beautiful (though sometimes weary) temples, I invite you to
The month of June comes upon us with the word compassion trailing along in its wake. The theme I've chosen for this
month is compassion. Everywhere I turn,
everywhere I look, I see opportunities for compassion. Right now I’m looking very close—as close as my
own foot. It’s this big black boot I have
to tote around with me. It’s the foot
inside that I am showering with compassion.
Poor innocent foot that suffered trauma in an unfortunate car accident!
So here I am unexpectedly slowed down with the same
amount of work to do. I, who, teach the
way of contemplation to others, find myself being invited to listen to my own
words. The turtle that sits beside my foot in the picture wasn't staged. It really is there--my night light inviting me to stop and rest. It has even greater meaning now.
Life will go on even if I have to cancel a few retreats. Life will go on even if I have change part of
my plans for vacation. (no hiking) Life
will go on if I can’t be at all community functions. At this moment I am called to care for my right foot…this
foot that I haven taken for granted, this foot that I have forgotten to be
(consciously) grateful for. Now I
totally understand St. Paul’s
lovely analogy of the physical body and the Body of Christ… (1Cor12:12-26) If the foot should say, “Because I am not a
hand I do not belong to the body, “would it not then belong to the body? “…if one member suffers, all the members
suffer with it.” HOW TRUE IT IS! When I take my boot off at night I am drawn
to pray with it, to thank it for the healing that is happening, to ask its
pardon for taking it for granted, to massage it gently and put lotion on
it. It is quite sacramental. I am being
drawn into compassionate presence. Although it is
unfortunate that something violent had to happen in order for compassionate
presence to come on stage, that is often the case in our lives. Sometimes we are jarred into reflection. I've been spending many moments in contemplation and
gratitude recently. Everything can
become a teacher if we open our hearts to what is in front of us.
As a child June was one of my favorite months, freed from
school I spent many hours with my feet in the waters of the creek that ran through our forest, catching crawdads, watching the minnows, listening to
life. And this banged up foot: it was young then but it was there---feeling the waters rush over it.
E is for ENTHUSIASM! That is the word I chose as my theme for the month of May. E is also for EARTH and that is the hermitage I stayed in for four days after leading a retreat near Philadelphia. Settling into my hermitage and into the solitude I had so longed for I was pleased to discover that I was in Hermitage E. E is also for eager, energy, ear, eye, ecstasy, express, elusive, enfold, enter, ethereal, and evening: all words I decided I would include, in some way, in my prayer.
E is for ENTHUSIASM. In my first prayer period I focused on the fact that enthusiasm means literally to be possessed by God. God-possession! To be zealous and inspired! To have passion for life! To be exuberant! Animated! Alive and Breathing! Moving with the life inside me! In the gospel of John, chapter 10, verse 2 Jesus proclaims: "I have come that you may have life and have it in abundance." Abundant Life, another lovely definition of enthusiasm.
Of course we don't always experience that flowing energy within. We don't necessarily wake up feeling enthusiastic and passionate about the new day. I wonder if our days might be different if upon rising we would sit down for a few moments, lay a hand on the heart, honoring the God who lives within. Spend a little time owning the Abundant Life given to us by the Source of all life. Each of us is able to decide who we are going to be in any given day.
E is for ENTHUSIASM! Somewhere inside you is a joy that is wanting to get out. Introduce it to the world. Let it show!
O Source of All Life, Is my abundant life that has come from you truly showing? Is it obvious to those with whom I live and work? Am I allowing it to be the radiant song of joy that you want to sing through me? Am I able to remember that every time I breathe, it is you I am breathing into our world? Does anyone suspect, when they see my enthusiasm for life, that it is because of You I exude this life? And if my answer to these questions is, "probably not," help me remember, there is always tomorrow. My life goes on into the eternal flow of You.