Your Word is My Delight, Catholic Writers Retreat

IM000491.JPGYour Word is My Delight

A Catholic Writers Retreat

Sponsored by the Catholic Writers Guild

 

Do you need time away to finish or start a manuscript? Work on that proposal? Organize your writing project? Finish work to meet your editor’s deadline?

On October 25-29, 2015 the Catholic Writers Guild, for the third time, is offering a writers retreat near Lansing, Michigan.

St. Francis Retreat and Conference Center, 703 E. Main Street, DeWitt, Michigan, is situated on a 93 acre site of woodlands, meadows, and prayer gardens.

$490 includes a private room with a single share bath, three meals a day (and all the coffee you can drink!), internet access, breakout spaces, resource library, three daily presenters, critique sessions, Mass and reconciliation.

The power of the Catholic Writers Guild is why we can keep the cost so low! This retreat, offered every other year, is popular because it is a true writers retreat offering you abundant time to work at writing, and time to critique with other Catholic writers.

You can register on line at http://www.stfrancis.ws/other-offerings.html  . Or call 1-866-669-8321.

Handicap accessible and dietary needs accommodated.

If you fly into Lansing Capital Region International Airport, a shuttle to the retreat house—only 7 minutes away—is provided.

Retreat space is limited so register soon!

 

Standing up to Kneel

frog on a cucumberWhile I was away the woman who lives downstairs, Linda, with whom I’ve shared this house for over 25 years, had done her best to follow the list of daily tasks for the care of the flowering pots and small veggie patch. She is not a gardener although she’s always loved the yard.

Since 2008 I’ve attended the Catholic Marketing Network trade show with the Catholic Writers Guild. It is always held mid summer—the gardens are at their peak, produce is ready for picking, and temperatures are high and rainfall minimal.

Every year in eager anticipation of meeting up with writing and publishing friends, for about ten days I leave the gardens in the hands of my housemate. Some years she manages fairly well, other years failed horribly—at least the dog and cat survive.

This year, as always, the trip was wonderful. The time spent on the road was challenging because of my worsening arthritic spine, but the hours on the road were lightened by the company of my dear friend, Ann Lewis. We knew this would be the last year of my help to drive the equipment to the conference.

There were emotional and spiritual challenges too. I felt called to remain in the upstairs hermitage; to pray fervently for the souls of the Planned Parenthood predators, for those involved in the genocide of Christians, and for souls lost to the insanity of homicide and suicide—there were so many prayers to be said.

I’m glad I went to the conference instead. The company of others, their laughter, love and hugs lifted my spirits. My face was sore from smiling!

Once home, I saw my housemate had had a tough go of it all, but she had managed. She too is aging. I was, and still am, grateful for her efforts.

She had taken care of the vegetable patch fairly well, regularly picking the tomatoes, cukes, and zucchini. The vines had not been trained to the trellises while I was away and were overgrown, entangled with the abundant weeds.

The numerous containers of geraniums and petunias had dried back hard on more than one occasion. The copious blooms were partially shriveled and a good third of the leaves were brown and crunchy.

I was amazed at how many weeds had grown in the cracks of the drive, in the stones of the path, and between the trees and shrubs. I hadn’t been gone that long!

For the two days since I’ve been home, and probably for another three, I’ll be cleaning things up. While doing so I look for the lesson of faith in this ordinary effort.

And what I find is a sense of being entrusted.

There are times in my eremitic life of prayer when I must step away from overwhelming events. Events so dark that they can, at times, block the Light. When this happens I turn to others to help me slog through evil, to help sort and order the chaos blocking my efforts.

In my turning to others for the care and feeding of my soul, I realized that they do their best but it is my responsibility to keep in order those things to which I have been entrusted. It’s not up to them to maintain my garden of faith and only if they are willing, to help me along until I am again fully present to nourish, water, and remove the debris that suffocates the soul.

With gratitude I thank them for holding spiritual ground as I am allowed to stand, take a deep breath and then kneel to begin again.

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

 

Storms Brewing

I’m on the road!

Yesterday the car was loaded by noon and I headed into town to have my tires checked and then made my way to Adoration for a few words with our Lord before hitting the highways.

My hope was to thread between storms on my way to Indianapolis to meet up with Ann Margaret Lewis to prepare materials for the for the Catholic Writers Guild Live conference.

The storms in Michigan had ended just before noon and if all went well I wouldnt drive through any in route to Ann’s — Indianapolis would get thunderstorms at about 4:00 pm.

And, boy did they! We managed to get the essentials from the car as the skies opened up. For hours, well into the night, the rains and thunder continued.

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Sod of Love Spared from Eden

burgundy roseI stooped at the waist to pull a few weeds. A twinge in my back caused me to stagger a bit so I lowered to kneeling and moved closer the flowers—a familiar intimacy.

The rose next to me was Tuscany, a maroon heirloom rose, its richly perfumed center was fluffy with gold pollen. The base of the dark velvety petals were tipped with white where the keel connected to the calyx. It gave the illusion of light radiating from its center. ‘Tuscany Superb’ is a polite shrub rose that remains relatively compact, at about four feet high and wide, and its stems are covered in hairy prickles rather than the usual woody thorns.

I worked my way a little farther down the garden bed, scooching along to where the Oriental lilies ‘Pink Pearl’ grew. The oversized anther pads floated on fine pale green filaments above the white edged petals. A humming bird zoomed in, took a couple quick sips from the lily’s trumpet and darted off.

The roses and the lilies, the fragrances known in July, rustled enough of me into the moment that the anxieties of the past few weeks eased.

I had been nearly consumed by worries, what were perceived as potential threats. A ghost from decades ago had returned to haunt, and fear bit hard like a hungry dog on grizzled bone.

I’d become terribly upset and thrown off balance, losing the comfortable peace so well known in my days. I attempted to regain perspective through regimented worship: intercessory praying, rosary, Liturgy of the Hours, Mass and Adoration. Tentatively I reached out for prayer and shared the situation with a group of peers. They acknowledged my fears and began their own intercessions on my behalf.

In all this, it wasn’t until I lowered myself to the ground did the tension seep away.

To kneel on soil—instead of on padded wood—is to join oneself intimately with the Creator, to lean into, and on to, God. To arch the back and offer ones hands to toil with joy or tears, distract, alone, loved or not is to embroider the earth with prayer.

We are placed upon this sod of love spared from the Garden of Eden. For as low as our lives are from the heavens, we are, always, the humus of the earth—from it and to it, nourished and nourishing, full circle in the created affections of God. We scratch upon it. And not all scratching is fruitful and not all seeding sprouts.

It is the effort to draw closer to God that brings us to our knees. And every prayer waters the ground that rears us to our sainthood.

(Image by Margaret Rose Realy, Obls OSB. All rights reserved.)

(Originally appeared July 2014)

Natural Order: Even the Birds Know What to Defend

sunset

Sunset view from the oratory.

I finished praying Compline as the sun was setting, displaying a glorious coral and periwinkle sky. My heart was still troubled from the anger unleashed by the decision to allow gay couples legal union. Both sides, homosexuals and people of the cross, were spitting and hissing; the battle was decided and the war still raged.

The ugliness had driven me off-line. I ached as I prayed for the souls of the losers, for all had lost—gay and Christian alike. The personal decision to choose where a penis does or does not go had become public, vulgar, and base. It appeared Satan had won all bets.

My contemplation was sharply ended by the screams of robins piercing the night. Their nest was in the apple tree along the west fence where I could, from the oratory window, watch them flit between the branches with worms dangling from their beaks.

I blew out the candle and hurried downstairs to the back door. The flash of the yard light revealed a darkened form scurrying at the edge of the garden, then up and over the back stockade fence. I bless the feral cats that keep the mice in check, but this one had gone too far.

The next morning I went out—momentarily forced to retreat from the fog of mosquitoes and find some repellent—to assess the damage. It was bad. The mudded nest had been torn clean from the limb and partially cracked. By the aggravated chip-chip of the robins I knew there were babies still alive.

Image courtesy morgefile.com.

Image courtesy morgefile.com.

Like the childhood game of Hot Boiled Beans, I knew that I was getting closer to or farther from the chicks by the heated desperation of the parents. Eventually I found three very fat chicks, though one was rather cold from exposure.

I grouped the babies together under the geraniums near the apple tree, and then examined the fallen nest. The adult birds, unconcerned with my size, were flapping and darting at my head trying to protect what was left of their family.

In the shed I cut a couple of lengths of twine, tying one around the circumference of the nest to close the broken side, making sure the branch saddle was straight. Back to the tree, with the step ladder in place, the nest was aligned on a branch and the remaining pieces of twine secured it in the crotch of the limb.

nest with twine

My attempt to secure the broken nest.

Gathering up the chicks, I poured them into the nest, and ducked as an adult’s wing made contact with the top of my head. I folded the ladder, walked it into the shed, and closed the doors.

Looking across the yard at the little family of birds just rescued, I felt sad. The adults had tried to drive away what they thought an intruder, when in truth restoration was taking place. I was trying in my own clumsy way to save this small family.

We all simply want to protect our family. But unlike the birds, we confuse the natural order of things. A sinister force lurks in the night to assail the family where vulnerability is greatest—the babies, the children who have not left the nest.

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