Thursday, July 30, 2015

While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven. Luke 24:51

Just a couple of weeks ago, I stood in this place - the Chapel of the Ascension on the peak of the Mount of Olives - caught off guard with grief.
I'd always related the Ascension of Jesus to the Great Commission and the joy the disciples shared as they went out to spread the good news!
But as I entered this spare chapel and knelt at the stone I felt His going from them and their own loss profoundly.  This was their last time together, it was their goodbye.
Only later on reflection did I connect it with my own loss.  It was too visceral in the moment.  My saying goodbye to my Dad, knowing I would not see him again in this life.  It happened so fast.  We looked into each others eyes.  He spoke his last words to me and I to him.  We held on and had to let go.  He smiled that big grin of his at my tears.  There is a spare chapel in my heart that marks the place, hallowed too.  Sometimes I stand there, gazing at the heavens.  Caught off guard with grief... and gratitude.

Friday, July 17, 2015


I planned to keep a journal.  I thought I would write each day about the one thing that stood out, that shone brightest with beauty or insight, revealed most His face.  I thought I would write about the one thing each day. 
The thing with pilgrimage is that you do all the preparation, then (not unexpectedly) you have no idea the way it will lead you, the way God will lead you.  If you are lucky, you do know only this...God will lead you.
Decades ago under the good guidance of Fr Eugene LaVerdiere, I was encouraged to deepen my praying with the scriptures by not relating to one of the characters in the passage but by being myself in the passage.  Think of a common biblical story – the pilgrim disciples on the road to Emmaus - something like this painting by Josef von F├╝hrich, 1837 ...

then 'step into the picture' and let it unfold.
This is what I experienced on pilgrimage - I stepped in, entering the humanity of Christ, of God with us, in a new and deeply moving way.  Walking so closely at times I could feel the dust from his steps fall upon my own feet.  Terra Firma.  We stood together on the same stones, drank in with our eyes the same landscape, stepped into the same mud of the River Jordan.  There was a comingling, an incorporation that I had not experienced before, stirring a longing in me, an interior movement, a recognition.  Uncontrived and inexplicable, like love ripened in a long marriage.  As though I had been looking all my life at his feet, his cloak, watching his hand, accustom to his voice.  When I received communion in the cave at Bethlehem that first morning, it dawned upon me that I do not only receive Jesus by this wondrous sacrament, become the body of Christ, but in a very substantial way He receives me.  I was not going on pilgrimage, we were.   At Dominus Flevit (God’s tears) I wept with Him for all our resistances, on the way to Tiberius I laughed with Him in the sea spray of Galilee, on the Mount of Beatitudes I felt the winds of the spirit carry His words to me.  The same stones that absorbed his agony at the flagellation received my body and it's heartrending load. 
If there was a one thing, this is it.  It was not some shining moment among many, some singular point of clarity and conversion, a flash revelation of mercy and love; it took more than a moment.  It was the ongoing impact of each experience, each place, each word spoken grounding me and awakening my senses, eucharisteo, humbling and joyful, overwhelming at times and so very ordinary, extraordinarily human.  It is the sense that everything belongs, that the stones do sing, and it is the grace that has come home with me, small pilgrim that I am.  It is the keepsake in my soul.  Everything brings me to Jesus. 

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Calling Mom on my birthday

I called my mom on my birthday, asked her if she remembered just what she was doing 60 years ago today.  Oh we shared some good laughs, and that question opened a door of memory to her own youth.  You see, my mom was very young when she had me, a new teenage bride.  I was born early and very small.  It was a difficult time.  As she recounted the memory, her voice grew soft.  She was so green, she said, so young.  She had no idea.  She told me that when she finally held me she thought I was the most beautiful baby she'd ever seen. 
Of course, I was warmed by her words, savoring the moment, when she rolled on with this..."Once you had grown a bit and we knew everything was okay, that is when folks started telling me you had been the ugliest baby!"  Oh, it was hilarious - we were laughing so hard we both had tears running down our cheeks (I know this even though we are thousands of miles apart).  Ours is a special bond. 

Friday, May 15, 2015

The Apple Orchard

Come let us watch the sun go down
and walk in twilight through the orchard's green.
Does it not seem as if we had for long 
collected, saved and harbored within us
old memories? To find releases and seek new hopes, 
remembering half-forgotten joys,
mingled with darkness coming from within,
as we randomly voice our thoughts aloud
wandering beneath these harvest-laden trees
reminiscent of Durer woodcuts, 
branches which, bent under the fully ripened fruit,
wait patiently, trying to outlast, 
to serve another season's hundred days of toil,
straining, uncomplaining, by not breaking
but succeeding, even though the burden
should at times seem almost past endurance.
Not to falter! Not to be found wanting!
Thus must it be, when willingly you strive
throughout a long and uncomplaining life,
committed to one goal: to give yourself!
And silently to grow and to bear fruit.
~ Rainer Maria Rilke ~


Friday, May 8, 2015

Invisible Work

Because no one could ever praise me enough,
because I don't mean these poems only

but the unseen
unbelievable effort it takes to live
the life that goes on between them,
I think all the time about invisible work.
About the young mother on Welfare
I interviewed years ago,
who said, "It's hard.
You bring him to the park,
run rings around yourself keeping him safe,
cut hot dogs into bite-sized pieces for dinner,
and there's no one
to say what a good job you're doing,
how you were patient and loving
for the thousandth time even though you had a headache."
And I, (who am used to feeling sorry for myself
because I am lonely,
when all the while, as the Chippewa poem says, 
I am being carried by great winds across the sky,)
thought of the invisible work that stitches up the world day and night,
the slow, unglamorous work of healing,
the way worms in the garden
tunnel ceaselessly so the earth can breathe
and bees ransack this world into being,
while owls and poets stalk shadows,
our loneliest labors under the moon.
There are mothers for everything, 
and the sea is a mother too,

whispering and whispering to us
long after we have stopped listening.
I stopped and let myself lean a moment 
against the blue shoulder of the air. 
The work of my heart
is the work of the world's heart.
There is no other art.

~ Alison Luterman ~

Thursday, March 12, 2015

How to be a Poet (to remind myself)

Make a place to sit down.
Sit down. Be quiet.
You must depend upon
affection, reading, knowledge,
skill— more of each
than you have— inspiration,
work, growing older, patience,
for patience joins time
to eternity. Any readers
who like your work,
doubt their judgment.

Breathe with unconditional breath
the unconditioned air.
Shun electric wire.
Communicate slowly. Live
a three-dimensioned life;
stay away from screens.
Stay away from anything
that obscures the place it is in.
There are no unsacred places;
There are only sacred places
And desecrated places.

Accept what comes from silence.
Make the best you can of it.
Of the little words that come
out of the silence, like prayers
prayed back to the one who prays,
make a poem that does not disturb
the silence from which it came.
~ Wendell Berry

Pope Francis:  Let us too become like poets of prayer: let us develop a taste for finding our own words, let us once again grasp those which teach us the Word of God.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

So it ever may it ever be

'Three Little Birds' is Back

and it feels like a feels like this...

When my nineteen-year-old son turns on the kitchen tap
and leans down over the sink and tilts his head sideways
to drink directly from the stream of cool water,
I think of my older brother, now almost ten years gone,
who used to do the same thing at that age;
and when he lifts his head back up and, satisfied,
wipes the water dripping from his cheek
with his shirtsleeve, it’s the same casual gesture
my brother used to make; and I don’t tell him
to use a glass, the way our father told my brother,
because I like remembering my brother
when he was young, decades before anything
went wrong, and I like the way my son
becomes a little more my brother for a moment
through this small habit born of a simple need,
which, natural and unprompted, ties them together
across the bounds of death, and across time …
as if the clear stream flowed between two worlds
and entered this one through the kitchen faucet,
my son and brother drinking the same water.

"A Drink of Water" by Jeffrey Harrison

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Just read:

The ordinary and proper response to our world is to turn on the radio, open the newspaper, go to another movie, talk to more people, or to look impatiently for new attractions and distractions. To listen patiently to the voice of the Spirit in prayer is radical displacement which at first creates unusual discomfort. We are so accustomed to our impatient way of life that we do not expect much from the moment. Every attempt to ‘live it through’ or to ‘stay with it’ is so contrary to our usual habits that all our impulses rise up in protest. But when discipline keeps us faithful, we slowly begin to sense that something so deep, so mysterious, and so creative is happening here and now that we are drawn toward it – not by our impulses but by the Holy Spirit.                        ~ Henri Nouwen, Compassion

How God Talks to Me

Coffee in one hand
leaning in to share, listen:
How I talk to God.
“Momma, you’re special.”
Three-year-old touches my cheek.
How God talks to me.
While driving I make
lists: done, do, hope, love, hate, try.
How I talk to God.
Above the highway
hawk: high, alone, free, focused.
How God talks to me.
Rash, impetuous
chatter, followed by silence:
How I talk to God.
First, second, third, fourth
chance to hear, then another:
How God talks to me.
Fetal position
under flannel sheets, weeping
How I talk to God.
Moonlight on pillow
tending to my open wounds
How God talks to me.
Pulling from my heap
of words, the ones that mean yes:
How I talk to God.
Infinite connects
with finite, without words:
How God talks to me.
~ Kelly Belmonte

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

O Sapientia - a sonnet by Malcolm Guite

I cannot think unless I have been thought,
Nor can I speak unless I have been spoken.
I cannot teach except as I am taught,
Or break the bread except as I am broken.
O Mind behind the mind through which I seek,
O Light within the light by which I see,
O Word beneath the words with which I speak,
O founding, unfound Wisdom, finding me,
O sounding Song whose depth is sounding me,
O Memory of time, reminding me,
My Ground of Being, always grounding me,
My Maker’s Bounding Line, defining me,
Come, hidden Wisdom, come with all you bring,
Come to me now, disguised as everything.