good for the soul

a little patience, please

Posted by on May 27, 2017 in good for the soul | 2 comments

These days I have plenty of opportunities to grow in the virtue of patience. It seems like in retirement I am busier than I ever was before, mostly my own doing in having joined some committees at church and dedicating myself to a number of projects around the house.

Somewhere in there I am also writing, though you wouldn’t know it from the general absence of anything but photo challenges here. But, it’s happening, quietly and for my personal pleasure. Maybe one day soon I’ll come clean with news about a finished novel. Or not. Patience.

Most days I sit outside in the post dawn hour. It’s probably the noisiest time of day, filled with birdsong, waves gently hitting the rocks, and the occasional whistles of a family of ospreys. It’s my favorite time of day.

I spend as much time as I can outside, whether it’s puttering around the yard, or having a refreshing¬†drink in the cool comfort of our porch. It gives me time to observe. I’ve always been too busy, thinking about the next thing that’s due, keeping track of schedules, mine and the family’s. But now, I have nothing but time.

One of the greatest gifts of this season of my life is living in the moment. It stretches on, unhurriedly. Kind of like that turtle I watched walk all the way across our yard, from one side to the other. He stopped in the shade of the chimenea for a little while, and then went off again. No hurry. No stress. Amen.

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follow the star!

Posted by on Jan 6, 2017 in good for the soul | Comments Off on follow the star!

I followed the star right to Mass this morning ūüôā

It wasn’t a long trek for me — literally just out my front door and across the street, but metaphorically, for all of us, it’s a short journey. Jesus is waiting for us, and he’ll more than meet us halfway if we take those first steps out the door. I know this now, but I didn’t always believe it was so.

Like the Magi, I’ve been on a long long journey, and like the historical Magi, they¬†probably didn’t just show up a couple of weeks later, but rather, probably traveled for years. Yet, here we are today.

On this celebration of Epiphany, seek out the star, Jesus. Embark on the journey. You don’t need to take frankincense or myrrh. Instead, give yourself to him.

 

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it’s the new year!

Posted by on Jan 1, 2017 in good for the soul | 3 comments

Did you call your mother?

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Madonna_(art)#/media/File:Raphael_Madonna_dell_Granduca.jpg

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus.

 

Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now, and at the hour of our death. Amen

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Happy New Year, dears!

Posted by on Dec 31, 2016 in good for the soul | Comments Off on Happy New Year, dears!

We’re having a rather quiet New Year’s Eve around here. I’m not going to lie, part of me wants to go into town in Mobile to see the Moon Pie drop, but I’m content to stay home and watch football with my honey. A steak and ale pie and a little wine will do the trick for the night.

I was going to make some crack about being old and not wanting to go out on New Year’s Eve, and then I thought…maybe it’s not old so much as wise, and I admit, you need to go around the block a time or two to pick up this wisdom. Instead, we’re enjoying a special meal and great parking. In our garage.

So, I’m a year older, maybe a little bit wiser, and no worse for the wear. This has been a very good year for our family, in spite of so many references to 2016 being terrible. We’ve had terrible years, years that competed with Queen Elizabeth’s Annus Horribilis, ¬†but I’m going to count this year¬†as anno beneditionem, a year of blessing. We had graduations, employment for all, home purchases, moves, vacations, and weddings. It has truly been a year filled with joy.

The quiet, low-key evening has made me pensive as I swirl my wine and think about the year. I’ve been working on the habit of an examination of conscience in the evenings, and my mind wandered to an examination of the year. Why not? I’ve given up on resolutions that I’ll likely break, but I’m game on being a better person in all areas of my life, from health to spirituality.

Here’s what I thought about for the year ending, and the year beginning, based on the Ignation Examen:

  1. How have I thought about God this year? Did I seek Him daily, not just on Sundays? What can I do to invite God’s into my days?
  2. What am I grateful for this year? Can I name all the blessings I received? Can I be grateful for the challenges and disappointments, too? Plan to invite gratitude into every day.
  3. What have my feelings said about me this year? What do they say about my relationship with the Lord? Was I loving? Patient? Angry? Aggressive? What areas need work? What does God say about those moments of frustration or joy? How can I use these feelings to start a conversation with Jesus?
  4. Pray about the top events this year. Is the prayer intercessory or praise? Take more experiences to prayer.
  5. Embrace tomorrow with hope. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide me. Include God as I plan my day. Remember God as I live my day.

Happy New Year, Friends!

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some thoughts on this memorial of St. Thomas Becket

Posted by on Dec 29, 2016 in good for the soul | Comments Off on some thoughts on this memorial of St. Thomas Becket

canterburyToday’s memorial of St. Thomas Becket¬†finds¬†me reflecting on¬†my career as a teacher of literature, retirement, and the importance of going on pilgrimages.¬†All three of those things came together for me recently, as I had the opportunity to visit Canterbury Cathedral and reflect first,on St. Thomas’ martyrdom and then, my years of teaching T.S. Eliot’s Murder in the Cathedral and Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales.

I can’t escape from my love of literature, and why would I want to? I’ve learned, too, that I can’t escape my¬†longing for the Eucharist, for Jesus.

While John and I were traipsing around Scotland enjoying an epic almost month-long vacation, I became acutely aware¬†that our travels were¬†slowly turning into a pilgrimage. We might have called our desire to visit historical places a kind of secular pilgrimage, but our thoughts and actions turned to the Church fairly soon after our arrival.¬†Isolation¬†and a terrible experience programming an old Garmin GPS caused us to miss Mass on our first Sunday there. While it wasn’t intentional, it left us with the determination to plan carefully so we wouldn’t find ourselves in the same predicament the next weekend. There was an abundance of services for the Church of Scotland, but finding a Roman Catholic Church and Mass proved to be a challenge in some of the more isolated areas we visited in the Orkney Islands.

The unintended result? A constant state of awareness of this absence, and sheer and utter joy whenever¬†discovering an RC Church in our travels. Communion, when we attended Mass, ceased to be an element of rote participation. I’m ashamed to say that it took the fear of missing the gift of the Eucharist (perceived rather than fact) that gave it the import it deserves weekly, if not daily.

One of my favorite visits was to the Italian Chapel, which deserves a post by itself. Another church, St. Margaret’s in the little town of Roy Bridge, had a shrine to St. Mary MacKillop, a saint I feature in my new book that comes out this fall. Every day brought some aspect of my faith alive, especially as we visited medieval and older churches that have been desanctified. I didn’t expect to be struck by so much sorrow in this, but it seemed like church after church in small villages have been turned over for use as community centers or worship in other traditions.

Eventually, we made our way up and around Scotland, and returned to London for the last few days of our trip. One of those days involved a trip south to Canterbury, and then Dover. While I love me some Matthew Arnold, I reread some of the tales from The Canterbury Tales. The trip to Canterbury was filled with excitement and expectation, and I was overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of it. What an astounding magnificent structure! Majestic!

I smiled at my pilgrimage there — the stories I would tell some day! The funny adventures John and I had for several weeks that have ended here on our last day of the trip. We entered, excited, and lingered over the baptismal font, set in a space larger than our little parish at home. Our reverie was interrupted by an Anglican priest who invited everyone present to prayer, as the cathedral is an active place of worship. John and I stopped and joined in silence. There was something both familiar and awkward about it.

John eventually had to sit down, but I went on for what seemed like miles, deeper and deeper into the cathedral until I reached the steps that signaled the site of the once-shrine of St. Thomas Becket. All that is left is a candle burning on the floor, a place-holder for where the shrine once stood. I prayed there for a little while, and ducked into a tiny chapel to the left — a place where there might have been a chapel for the Blessed Sacrament if history had played out differently.

It left me yearning again, an experience I admit is brand new to me. We left soon after, and as John and I walked in the shadow of the cathedral¬†toward the center of town for lunch, I shared those thoughts with him. He had to stop and rest a little before we kept going, and we found a place to sit, ¬†when he pointed out the RC sign on the side of a building, and the presence of Catholic Church nearby. That’s when we found St. Thomas of Canterbury Catholic Church. I went inside only to discover it was covered in scaffolding. Still, I could see the altar clearly, and the tabernacle. Amazing the peace and gratitude I felt in that moment.

I started this vacation with an eye to history and literature, surprised at every turn that made it clearer and clearer I was on an unplanned pilgrimage. In that smaller church, somewhat eclipsed by the grandeur of the cathedral down the street, I discovered my need for pilgrimage — my need to see and feel and walk in the footsteps of saints.

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back in bayou la batre

Posted by on Nov 3, 2016 in good for the soul | Comments Off on back in bayou la batre

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It seems I’m destined for a lot of travel this year. Who can complain about that? I wish I could say this last trip was to exotic and faraway places, but it wasn’t. Still, it took me away from home and my honey. I’m happy to be back.

Chores and some other things awaited me, so I didn’t feel like I had reached my down time at home. I even felt a little off, like Fall wasn’t quite right with this new scenery. I missed the Stone Mountain daisies that cover all the granite in Rockdale and DeKalb this time of year. Silly me, ruminating on somewhere else and not seeing the prettiful sights in front of me.

My errand to the post office fixed that mindset. The office closed from 12:00 to 1:00 for lunch, and it was 12:05. I had to get the package in the mail, so I hung around the area, exploring.

What a blessing!

Salt marshes have replaced the ubiquitous granite. No more Stone Mountain daisies — time to learn the names of the wildflowers here! No bluebirds, but pelicans are everywhere, and I even saw some ducks and geese. A lot of the winter migration goes through this area, so I better be on the lookout for some other delights.

This is the day which the LORD has made; Let us rejoice and be glad in it. Psalm 118: 24

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