A Revelation, a Conversation and a Location
To pay attention, this is our endless and proper work. Mary Oliver
When I was 13 years old, I got my first pair of glasses. I remember riding home from the doctor’s office and realizing for the first time that when you look at a tree you can see individual leaves. That experience has become a metaphor for my spiritual life. I try not to miss the small things…the individual leaves growing on the tree of my life.
As Thanksgiving approaches, I’d like to share with you, 1) a personal revelation, 2) a conversation, and 3) a city block, all small things and all of which I am especially grateful for this year.
I’m an impulsive person. When I get excited about an idea, it’s “ready, shoot, aim.” I want to get started immediately and see the idea through to the end. But as I look back on my life, I realize that many of my most memorable moments began with an annoying interruption- something that stopped me dead in my tracks.
One example: When I was raising children, it seemed that whenever one of them wanted to talk to me about something important, it was either late at night when I was exhausted, or it was when I was walking out the door to do something else. Sometimes it took all I had to slam the brakes on my agenda and give the need right in front of me my full attention. When I managed it, I experienced some of the deepest moments of my motherhood.
2. Unsatisfied Church Folk
I’m grateful for all the people of faith across this country who love the Catholic Church, despite its woundedness, and who are searching for more relevant ways to express the gospel message to people today. Over the past years, especially over the past 18 months of the pandemic, I have met them through this blog and through a variety of zoom communities.
There is a fledgling Catholic community out there that is listening intently to the people of our time. They are putting aside their careful ways of being church and sharing their concerns, hopes and dreams with one another. They are steering the church toward a richer theological harbor. They give me hope.
When I need clarity or inspiration, the oblong circle of sidewalk outside my door becomes my monastic cloister walk. I can circle that familiar path undistracted and pray my mantra.
It takes twenty minutes or more for my mind to relent and my mantra to kick in. Then comes a period of time that I just walk in peaceful presence. There is no forcing this…but usually…eventually… a seedling of a feeling or a thought will surface…a glimmer that urges me to reach out to someone, or write about something, or consider a situation differently. It always comes as a surprise to me. It always brings me peace. I often feel like hitting the palm of my hand against my forehead and saying,“Of course!” I can’t manufacture these glimmers on my own. They come from inside of me, but not from me. They are the workings of the Holy Spirit. I am certain of that.
I realize that this Thanksgiving comes on the heels of a year of mixed blessings. It has had its cold and bitter moments and more than enough heartaches and headaches. But for most of us, it has also had its joys and its newness, its extraordinary blessings and providence. This Thanksgiving let us turn to the words of Abraham Heschel: Just to be is a blessing. Just to live is holy.