Sunday, July 21, 2019

There Is Need of Only Rhythm

Jesus entered a village
where a woman whose name was Martha welcomed him.
She had a sister named Mary
who sat beside at his feet listening to him speak.
Martha, burdened with much serving, came to him and said,
"Do you not care
that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving?
Tell her to help me."
Jesus said to her in reply,
"Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things.
There is need of only one thing.
Mary has chosen the better part
and it will not be taken from her."

(Luke 10:38-42)

The gospel story of Mary and Martha has long been a favorite of mine, with the reasons why evolving. And I was thrilled to see that it was today’s gospel reading, especially since one of my favorite presiders said our Liturgy.

George is a bit of a “mystical presider,” and when you listen to his homilies, you simply have to be ready to let it take you where it’s going to go. Today he said of Mary and Martha, “It’s rhythmic,” and I just loved that.

So often I let my Martha side get the best of me, especially when I am trying to focus on my Mary side. Or vice versa.

In my contemplation, I worry, “Am I serving enough?”
In my serving, I worry, “Am I contemplating enough?”

Rather than get anxious about what’s right for me, I just want to be present to life, however it is presenting itself at the moment.

How do we live into the peace of our own rhythms?

Let us walk in the holy presence.

contemplative summer cooking

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Can We Agree?

There Is A Place Beyond Ambition
Mary Oliver

When the flute players
couldn’t think of what to say next

they laid down their pipes,
then they lay down themselves
beside the river

and just listened.
Some of them, after a while,
jumped up
and disappeared back inside the busy town.
But the rest—
so quiet, not even thoughtful—
are still there,

still listening.

Let us walk in the holy presence.

Monday, July 8, 2019

Focused on Gratitude with Mary as Guide

Mary Oliver's wonderful poem, Gratitude, arrived in my inbox while I was away on vacation visiting with friends in Acadia National Park. I couldn't help but use it as a reflection on my journey through Maine. I've used it before, but I can't think of a time when I don't want to re-visit an MO poem!

Mary's version:
What did you notice?

The dew snail;
the low-flying sparrow;
the bat, on the wind, in the dark;
big-chested geese, in the V of sleekest performance;
the soft toad, patient in the hot sand;
the sweet-hungry ants;
the uproar of mice in the empty house;
the tin music of the cricket’s body;
the blouse of the goldenrod.

What did you hear?

The thrush greeting the morning;
the little bluebirds in their hot box;
the salty talk of the wren,
then the deep cup of the hour of silence.

What did you admire?

The oaks, letting down their dark and hairy fruit;
the carrot, rising in its elongated waist;
the onion, sheet after sheet, curved inward to the
pale green wand;
at the end of summer the brassy dust, the almost liquid
beauty of the flowers;
then the ferns, scrawned black by the frost.

What astonished you?

The swallows making their dip and turn over the water.

What would you like to see again?

My dog: her energy and exuberance, her willingness,
her language beyond all nimbleness of tongue, her
recklessness, her loyalty, her sweetness, her
sturdy legs, her curled black lip, her snap.

What was most tender?

Queen Anne’s lace, with its parsnip root;
the everlasting in its bonnets of wool;
the kinks and turns of the tupelo’s body;
the tall, blank banks of sand;
the clam, clamped down.

What was most wonderful?

The sea, and its wide shoulders;
the sea and its triangles;
the sea lying back on its long athlete’s spine.

What did you think was happening?

The green breast of the hummingbird;
the eye of the pond;
the wet face of the lily;
the bright, puckered knee of the broken oak;
the red tulip of the fox’s mouth;
the up-swing, the down-pour, the frayed sleeve
of the first snow—

so the gods shake us from our sleep.

My version:

What did you notice?
Clear water all around, the smell of
fresh pine all around
Nature giving itself in relationship to each of us,
each of us willing to enter

What did you hear?
The silence of the busy mountain in the early morning
as the sun rose to greet us with a new day

What did you admire?
The intentionality of life on Mount Desert Island; the conservation
of resources, the awareness of nature as gift, the appreciation of community 
 as a reality of being human.

What astonished you?
The simplicity of the Roosevelt’s summer home
on Campobello Island, much simpler
than homes we find along the shore or in the suburbs today.
Plus, a harmonious relationship between nations on display.

What would you like to see again?
The lupine in season, flooding the fields with purple beauty

What was most tender?
Dear friends and their presence...simply that.

What was most wonderful?
The flavors! Lobster; blueberries; simple, fresh meals
shared as eucharist.

What did you think was happening?
The experience of the joy of life lived in fullness.

Let us walk in the holy presence.

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Making a Return

I have been away enjoying vacation in beautiful Maine with dear friends. Suffice it to say, I have a few thoughts to share, but still in recovery mode I am. Let the beauty speak for itself. More to come.

Let us walk in the holy presence.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

All You Holy Women

“God comes to us as we are and allows our abilities to express Divine Truth.” I heard one of my sisters say this a few weeks ago. An obviously powerful line, it stuck with me.

I heard another one of my sisters say to me the other day, “I feel like admitting that you are a perfectionist is half the battle, like, ‘Hi, I’m Val, and I am a perfectionist.’”

This past week the community has slowed down to take in our annual retreat. As mentioned in my last post, our sister, Joan, directed us through these days. She told stories of sisters about whom she had journaled during her time as prioress, sisters who came in at the top of the list in community rank back in the 80’s. These elder sisters had lots to teach her about the wisdom it takes to live life well, and she used this week to share that wisdom with us. She partnered each highlighted sister with a quality of the spiritual life, reflected on its different facets, and offered questions for our own growth. These conferences were loaded with wonderfully insightful material, even though at times it felt overwhelming—the amount of self-reflection possible with such meaty, developed reflections.

Compassion combined with selfishness; serenity combined with anxiety...and so on...Joan examined both sides of ten qualities. On our desert day, Joan combined vitality with perfectionism.

Oh no.

Just what this perfectionist needed to enter a day of silence and solitude...the aspect of myself that makes the most noise in my head and that tries to partner up with me most often to try and pull me away from my Divine Truth.

I have to admit; it wasn’t easy. Nope.

Because then I had an entire day to reflect on what I heard: “Perfection is bad for you the way smoking is bad for you.” “Perfectionism is an illusion.”

Perfectionism is this vicious cycle for me. The vulnerability that it takes to inch away from perfectionism by admitting your humanity—your incompleteness in order to grow into your true self, that vulnerability is often so difficult to muster up in the first place because of said perfectionism. And I know that I am not the only one with the challenge because I heard and saw others resonating, but perfectionism is often lonely because it’s hard to talk about.

I am so grateful for the retreat that Joan gifted to us; it reminded me of the history behind me, supporting me, upholding me. These women who compose our Benedictine family still offer us gifts, too—they remind me that I am on a journey, not only my own, but communally, too. They remind me to laugh about my daily foibles and general humanity that usually cause me to beat up on myself. They remind me to seek and live from my Divine Truth. They remind me to keep running on the path of love.

All you holy women, come and be with us.

Let us walk in the holy presence.

Monday, June 10, 2019

Communal Retreat

This week our community, along with friends/oblates, will enter into retreat together.

Pray for us (as we will for you) while we hear our own Joan Chittister speak on women and holiness--an opportunity for reflection and growth.

Until we meet again...

Mary Oliver gives us her wisdom.

First Happenings
A morning-glory morning with its usual glory,
dawn particularly startling with citrons and
mauves, petunias in the garden flashing their
tender signals of gratitude. The sunflowers
creak in their grass-colored dresses. Cosmos,
the four o'clocks, the sweet alyssum nod to
the roses who so very politely nod back.

And now it is time to go to work. At my desk
I look out over the fluttering petals, little
fires. Each one fresh and almost but not quite

Consider wearing such a satisfying body!
Consider being, with your entire self, such
a quiet prayer!

Let us walk in the holy presence.

(Planting our own quiet prayers--four rows of corn--to be greeted in a couple of months!)

Monday, June 3, 2019

Goslings, Double the Fun!

This weekend I went for a run. As I headed back toward the monastery, I noticed a family of geese crossing the road. The goslings grow so fast!

Which got me thinking: goslings. It’s June! Teachers are in the homestretch! I remember those days when I was teaching fourth grade, just waiting for that last day, totally exhausted. We would be at the point in the year where we would have kids balance ice cubes on their heads in contests. Yes, there was no air conditioning!

I thought about the Ryan Gosling “Hey girl” memes. Here are a few for those teachers in the homestretch looking for a laugh. (All from Google Images.)

Stay strong, teachers! We’re with you!

Summer is coming!

Let us walk in the holy presence.

There Is Need of Only Rhythm

Jesus entered a village where a woman whose name was Martha welcomed him. She had a sister named Mary who sat beside at his feet listening t...