For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh, a time to mourn, and a time to dance, a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to throw away; a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.
Summer giving way to autumn . . .
Of course, as soon as the fireworks stop from the 4th of July, the school shopping ads come out and stores are trying to entice us to go school shopping . . . didn’t the kids just get out of school? When our children were home and school age, this was the crazy time, trying to see who needed new shoes and jackets and school supplies, and what could be passed down from one child to the next one (do families still do that?). Autumn has long been my favorite time of the year. My birthday is in October and so was my Mom’s. We shared the same day and it was always special for that reason. The colors in New England are magnificent as well and I always thought that that was God’ birthday present to the two of us. I also remember, though, along with numerous moms in town, that when that school bus finally rolled around for that first day of school, there was this collective “Thank You, God!! They’re back in school!” going up all across town. After that, as fall settled, it, one could almost hear the children growing . . .
Within the past week, we have made two summer trips to my son’s home two hours away, one, to see his new home (with a pool – it’s been unbelievably hot here) and two, to celebrate our granddaughter’s 5th birthday. This weekend, we also heard proclaimed in the Gospel the story of the narrow gate, how we are all called to enter the narrow gate to the Lord. One homilist talked about how all of us carrying two suitcases, one filled with memories of all the things we’ve done bad or hurtful pains of our past life and the other suitcase, all the good things we have done in our lives. He told us that in order for us to go through that narrow gate, we needed to let go or drop both suitcases, for nothing we have done is outside of God’s mercy and nothing we have done could ever have earned us salvation. Another homilist talked about that gate or that door being a “man door” or a door through which only one man could fit – it is the door to Christ and we each have to go in, one at a time. He challenged us to ask ourselves if that was the door to which we are aiming – or is that just another entryway in our world that we look at from time to time? Are we singularly focused on that door or gate? Are all our energies directed toward that door or gate?
I learned a lesson from my 5-year old granddaughter about singularity of attention this past week. Abby is learning how to swim. Since she is in her new home with a pool, each day she is getting a little braver and trying to “go deeper”. A week ago, I was in the pool with her, laughing and jumping around in the water, and frolicking along with our 4 year old and 5 and ½ year old grandsons from another daughter. Abby wanted to learn how to put her face in the water and swim. She was trying, but a little apprehensive. We were in the shallow end, and I took her two little hands and pulled her around in circles and weaved in and out, just for fun. Then I let go and said, “OK, now you swim to me,” and I stepped back a few paces. Again and again, she tried it and was laughing all the time. She still wanted to put her face in the water and go underwater, so she finally did. Each time she tried, I caught her two little hands with my hands and the more we did it, the more confident she became. By the end of the day, she jumped off the diving board, went under and came up and I caught her two little hands once more. She did it! She was able to do that because of the marvelous attention and singular focus of a 5 – year old and because she knew I was there to catch her until she got it. She wasn’t looking for anything else except my two hands. That is singularity of attention! Do we walk through life with our eyes on the prize (Phil. 3:13-14)? Do we walk through door after door, with our eyes fixed on Jesus Christ? Do we need someone on the other side with two hands ready to catch us? or pull us through? I would say that the Holy Spirit provides those hands for us in each of the members of Christ’s body. Scores of people in our lives offer those two hands to help us stay focused, to pull us along, or to pull us through the doors or that narrow gate. We have only to open our eyes! And hold on! Once through that narrow gate, we can begin to appreciate autumn or fall, and we can actually hear each other grow!
As we begin another school year, may we all pull each other along, to help keep us focused and our eyes on the prize. May we all teach each other how to care for our Common Home, and may we all extend our hands to those in need and not be afraid to grasp onto the hands extended to help us through those narrow gates!
Happy Independence Day!!
It has been a while since I have updated the website, since other projects have taken their time, especially a research project around the beautiful prayer form of Taize’, but the birth of our country seems good place to resume regular postings, especially since there is also a new birthing emphasis with Mystical Ventures. Last year, Pope Francis released his encyclical letter, Laudato Si,
which called all peoples to begin to work together to take care of our Common Home, this planet. It received widespread acclaim and acceptance, and struck a chord for many, no matter what religion or philosophy the many may have embraced. It is about stewardship. We are all dependent on one another and all of us are dependent on our loving Creator, who sustains our every breath, and who gave us this Common Home to enjoy and nurture. The principles behind Mystical Ventures are very similar to Pope Francis’ directives: to live a sustainable life while taking care of the earth and putting more back into the earth than what we took:
Grounded in the Roman Catholic mystical tradition and the conviction that the earth sustains us in multiple ways, Mystical Ventures (MV) hopes to connect the dots for many peoples of varied interests and demonstrate how religious faith empowers us to understand our ecological environment. Mystical prayer connects with the food we eat, the animals that sustain us, the books we read, the cycles and sounds of nature and stewardship of the earth alongside our individual vocations and care for the poor.
We will continue to share our lives of living that sustainable life through gardening, cooking, preserving produce, animal husbandry and land management, ecological practices, adult faith formation and prayer. Today, more than ever, prayer is required. Laudato Si will be available by link on the website and we will begin to make explicit connections between Laudato Si (LS), or what Pope Francis is calling us to do and the sustainable lifestyle at MV. To begin, perhaps, we should all step back and consider repentance. What have we done to this beautiful Garden of Eden that was once gifted to us? In the early paragraphs of LS, Francis refers to his predecessor’s words, those of Pope Benedict XVI, who with paternal concern urged us to realize that creation is harmed “where we ourselves have the final word, where everything is simply our property and we use it for ourselves alone. The misuse of creation begins when we no longer recognize any higher instance than ourselves, when we see nothing else but ourselves.” (LS, 6)
The opening words of our Constitution read:
We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty for ourselves and our Prosperity, do ordain and establish this Constitution of the United States of America.
Just in those opening lines, we hear a call to unity (not factions), to Justice (not injustice), to Tranquility (or peace), to common needs, and to Blessings. David Brooks wrote a great text last year, entitled: The Road to Character (New York: Random House, 2015) in which he gave his readers several stories of men and women in this country who gave up their own agendas for someone else’s or for some larger purpose than themselves. That is what is needed as we move forward to caring for our planet or our Common Home. If we truly love this country, then we must be willing to sacrifice for her.
There is no love without sacrifice. As we celebrate the 4th this year, let us all be mindful of that call. May we do what we can to ensure that those spacious skies, those amber waves of grain, those purple mountain majesties and alabaster cities gleaming are here for our children and our grandchildren.