A Walk through the Garden

Image by Margaret Rose Realy, Obl. OSB. All rights reserved.

The Lavender plant and its flower represent love and devotion. Lavender flowers are also associated with purity, silence, and caution. The leaves from a Maple tree symbolize “to be reserved.”

Many of our saints were filled with those qualities. What a lovely reminder of their lives, spoken in the language of flowers, as we approach the celebrations of All Saints and All Souls.

Vibrancy and Dormancy

I’d driven to an area where Sandhill Cranes often stop to rest during their winter migration. Not too far away was an open and dry fen dressed in its autumn blonde and gold. At its lowest point a small brook meanders past poplars, scrubby shrubs, and wild grasses. This little tributary turns into a full sized creek when rains are heavy. Creek or brook, it eventually meets up with a larger river several miles downstream.

Large tussocks of grass grew on the banks. I’d decided to rest awhile, and pushed aside the fronds of a nearby tuft and sat on the leafy mound. The water was cold and clear, and glistened in the bright October afternoon. Through the knee-deep water the algae coated stones and pebbles on the stream bed were easy to see.

A lemon-yellow lance-shaped leaf from a locust tree, with tips upturned like a tiny canoe, floated and bobbed in rhythm with the current’s ripples. The leaf sped around an oxbow and spun in the little rapids created by stones and sticks. As it came to the next bend it was caught in an eddy and stopped its forward progression. There it sat nearly motionless as other leaves passed. Eventually something in the water’s movement lifted the golden leaf from the calm and back into the current.

Rapid movement…then stillness…

My thoughts drifted to my journey as a Benedictine Oblate and I remembered reading a quote by Fr. Gabriel, OCD, about the “double movement of charity.”[i] As an Oblate I am called to action and service in the busy flow of the world, with all its turbulence and determined forward movement. I am also called to the quiet eddy of prayer where I can rest in silence. In either situation the goal is to unite my efforts to God’s will “…fusing the love of God and the love of neighbor into one and the same love…”[ii]

I am a beginner, a novice at this work of action and contemplation. The balance of these two loves—of God and neighbor—is not yet easily attained. I prefer peeking around the window sash of my cloistered rooms to stepping through the door of the shelter in town—where all its noises, smells, and emotions overwhelm my senses. My nature is toward a quiet salvation of souls rather than to overt evangelization.

Sitting on the bank, my attention was drawn back to the brook as a bright red maple leaf got caught in the eddy—and surprisingly one of its winged seeds with it. The leaf was a glorious vibrant red in the mid-day sun and the spinner dull, dried and wrinkled. There they rested, side by side—vibrancy and dormancy.

Soon enough an unseen movement lifted them back into the flow. The leaf, with its unmistakable color shouting the glory of God, went ahead. Soon to follow was the unremarkable seed.

As I walked up the bank and across the field to the car I was comforted by…or rather, comfortable in my plainness. It is the unadorned seed that may eventually bear fruit.

[i] Divine Intimacy, Father Gabriel of Saint Mary Magdalen, OCD, p. 999.

[ii] Ibid, p.1000.

Increments of Evil

I wrote about how both God and Satan work incrementally.

Not so long ago I came upon this quote in the book, Song of the Sparrow by Murray Bodo, OFM:

We drift away from God so easily; not fast but easily. And before we know it, we are far downstream from God trying desperately to break our acceleration and reverse our direction.

Then the other day a friend sent this from YouTube across my Facebook feed…

As a Benedictine, I/we are called to be pray-ers in the world. And I do pray–for people by name, for groups and their causes, for our near-sighted government, and for our world where the infection of evil is spreading.

I don’t know that I can pray hard enough, fast long enough, suffer deep enough to even slow the momentum of decline…I can only hope that the Lord hears us, and helps us.

Image from morguefile.com.

Image from morguefile.com.



Feeling of Skin

It was an early autumn morning at the retreat center and I was walking through the back meadow in the pre-dawn light. Even with the hood of my bright-blue—Blessed, Beautiful and Bodacious—sweatshirt scrunched up around my neck, I felt a slight chill and shivered; my pant legs and shoes were wet from the morning dew.

The sky was clear. To the west the heavens were a dark navy and still reflected a few stars. Eastward it transitioned to a luminous blue-gray. A thin fog filtered the emerging coral light. I was reminded of the skies in Maxfield Parrish paintings.

To say that I was praying feels inaccurate, even shallow. As written by a friend, Elizabeth, the Presence feels touchable at those moments, when the world falls still and angels have time to catch their breath.

Silence is a defining portion of my life…welcomed and practiced.

I work diligently to be concise with words, and many times am confounded trying to find a language that expresses holy awe, love, and assurance. I read in Magnificat, from Fr. Donald Haggerty, that “The soul can only wait in a poverty of speech.”

This poverty was made more pronounced at the Catholic writers’ retreat this week when I was asked, more than once, what made me so joyous—jokingly teasing me about being on drugs. It felt odd to have these new friends ask where my peace came from. I thought…we are Catholics, we have Mass, Eucharist, the True Presence…it just exists.

I continued my walk through meadows and woodlands and realized that to describe the love of the Creator is like trying to describe skin. It is simply there, intimately and uniquely formed, expanding and contracting, sensitive to damage, and without it we would die.

But to write about how skin feels against the veins and tendons of my hands, or the sensation as it sets upon my cheek or toes is an awareness that words cannot describe. I am rarely conscious of it unless it is damaged. Skin is there—simply, purposefully, essentially.

This is how I experience our God and the love that envelops. I cannot tell you of its existence, but I can tell you of the sense of absence when I have damaged that relationship.

There are times—when exposed to disrespect of others, when hearing of violence, or when I am insecure or self-centered and have my feelings hurt—that the outward expression of happiness may recede. But that is an emotion and emotions change. Joy always remains—it is the very skin of God intact upon the soul.